Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Roller Sports

Fighting asthma and infrastructural challenges, how Arun Rayudu became Asia's second-best roller skater

An Asian silver medalist, Arun Rayudu has been a national champion for the last 14 years. Now, his aim is to win India's first gold medal at the Asian Games next year.

Fighting asthma and infrastructural challenges, how Arun Rayudu became Asias second-best roller skater

Md Imtiaz

Updated: 1 March 2022 11:18 AM GMT

The 'jewel of the east coast' Vishakhapatnam or Vizag is known for its majestic sprawling beaches and as being one of India's largest steel manufacturers.

Deemed as one of the most-developed smart cities in the country, it has also silently marked a dynamic cultural growth for one particular sport, which is barely talked about in India — roller skating. According to the ratings of the Roller Skating Federation of India, Visakhapatnam is the country's number one city for the sport.
Several medal winners from the state, which is number one in the state-wise rankings, are training in Visakhapatnam and excelling at various national and international tournaments. Availability of good skating rinks, dedicated coaches and interest among parents are the major factors for the city fast turning into a skaters' hub. One of the gems of this skating hub is Arun Rayudu. An Asian silver medalist ranked Asian No.2 in the senior category and world No.5 in the under-19 category, Arun has been a national champion for the last 14 years. He has been playing for Team India since 2014. He has also been the All India Inter-University Champion for three years. He is considered to be one of the best figure skaters in India.
Arun's journey has been nothing short of inspirational, from battling asthma to working his way up to become a champion skater. "Since my childhood, speed used to thrill me. As my mother tells me, I got fascinated once seeing skaters on the road, and since then, I wanted to pursue it. I started my skating journey at the age of three. I had asthma, so the doctors initially had suggested that I take up sports. My mother fuelled my interest and got my admission in one of the skating academies in Vizag," says Arun in a conversation with The Bridge.
There was no stopping him once he got his pair of skates and started learning. Skills that others took one or two years to learn, Arun could do in months. He crushed gold medals from the district to national level tournaments in the six to eight age group category. Roller skating, which has its roots in European countries, doesn't have similar popularity in India. Despite knowing about the lack of awareness, it was simply a passion that drove the 22-year-old to attain success slowly in this sport. Now he has coach Pawan Kumar, the National Champion back in 1999, by his side.

Arun's journey has been nothing short of inspirational, from battling asthma to working his way up to become a champion skater.

"I became a part of the Indian skating team in 2014 when I was in the tenth standard. However, I couldn't win a medal that year at the Asian Championships, finishing fourth. But this experience gave me exposure, and I understood how much it needs to be successful on an international stage. In 2016, I won two medals at the same tournament - one silver and a bronze. I was ranked world no. 5 in under-19 category in 2017, and retained my second spot in Asian senior rankings," says Arun.
The journey, however, was not that smooth for Arun, whose injuries time and again robbed him of chances. While most of the skating tournaments in India happen during winter, Arun always had to battle the added disadvantage of his asthma. Four years since breaking into the national team, Arun suffered a right shoulder dislocation in 2018. He participated at the Asian Championships with the injury. In 2019 again, he suffered a left-shoulder dislocation and had to miss out from some international events. His recovery and training got derailed again by the Covid-19 pandemic.
After a break of almost three years, Arun is now vying for his spot in the Indian team again so that he can win the elusive gold medal at the 19th Asian Games in 2022."The injuries led to the toughest part of my career. I was shattered and frustrated at the same time because I was just sitting idle and waiting for the moment I could return to my training. I stay in the outskirts of Vizag, so every day I travel 60 km twice to train. I am counting the days for the state championships, which start on November 18, and then the national championships next month. Only good results at these two tournaments will let me be a part of the Indian team again," he adds.

Arun Rayudu after winning silver medal at the 18th Asian Championships
Talking about India's ability to progress in skating sport, Arun feels that the country still has a long way to go in making headway in the global scale. There are plenty of infrastructural changes needed for the overall progress of the sport."For instance, India still doe not have a single indoor wooden rink for skating which is the standard requirement for international tournaments. It is a pretty smooth surface compared to the cement surfaces we practice on. My appeal to the government would be to recognise and treat roller-skating at par with other sports. And also fund roller-skaters the way other sports and athletes are being funded and provide us with efficient infrastructure to train in. So, I request the government to consider providing us with appropriate platforms to train on so that we can put in our tireless efforts to make our country proud like any athlete would dream," says Arun.
Besides excelling in skating, Arun is also balancing his education and pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. An above-average student, Arun got a chance to study in the National Institute of Technology (NIT) after securing a good ranking in his engineering entrance. However, he prioritised the sport and chose to pursue his degree from Vignan's Institute of Information Technology, where he is being able to strike a balance.
While India has yet to send a representative in his sport at the Olympics, Arun wishes to create milestones and set records for the country on the global stage so that his success can inspire a generation to take up skating and eventually build an infrastructurally strong eco-system for his sport in India.

Next Story