It’s not every day that we come across stories of people who, after winning multiple national medals, take it on themselves to build a race track for the generation to come. For Dhanush Babu, skating is not just a sport, it’s a work of art. Dhanush developed a passion for skating very early on in his life and bagged his very first national medal at the age of 8. His dedication and persuasiveness have brought him a long way from where he started. Read on to know his story…
When and how did you start this journey?
It all started in January 1999. My grandma was an athlete, and at that time she was training at the Athletic Stadium in Bangalore. I would visit the stadium with her and watch a few people skate. How they worked their magic on the skates is something that always intrigued me. So when my grandma asked if I’d like to join, I instantly said, “yes, I’d love to.”
Also, the reason I started skating is that I am in love with eagles. The way they fly and the way they feel in the air is something I’ve always been curious to experience. At that time, all I thought was, I just want to be in the air and feel the same way and I was sure skating would give me that feeling.
How has the journey been so far?
It’s been a real rollercoaster since then. I started skating when I was 4. And I bagged my first national medal was when I was 8 years old. I have been competing in the national championships ever since. From the year 2003 to 2007, I was in the Karnataka state team and I was representing the state. At that time, I won multiple medals but I couldn’t get to a point where I could win the gold. It was always silver and bronze. When I was at the peak of my form in 2007, I got jaundice and I was bedridden right before the races. Well, obviously then, I couldn’t take part and I had to take a break for almost 3 years. It took me almost 3-4 years to get back to the track. I made a comeback in 2011, only to realize how far behind I was and how far the world had reached. Most professional skaters had upgraded their equipment to the best ones and I was not in touch with most of them. It was so difficult to accept that I was lacking behind, despite being on top of my form and fit to perform. But then time progressed and so did my performance. The best thing happened to me in 2012 in Bangalore, on my home track. The only aim for me at that time was to get a national medal. Because once you get a national medal; you are eligible to take part in the international championship selection trials. The only thing I had on my mind was to get the medal so that I could be capable of competing in the selection trials. From 1999 to 2012, I finally did bag my gold!
How many championships have you participated in until now?
11 national championships and 17 gold medals overall.
One thing you absolutely love about skating?
That it’s an individual sport. It’s the survival of the fittest. Whoever is the strongest and whoever has worked for it, gets through. The best thing is you’re able to slide, you can control your power and can put all the effort and achieve all that you want to. That’s’ the best thing in the world because you don’t have to rely on any other components.
Is there a skating skill you’re yet to master?
When you are skating, if you have to turn left, you have to put the left leg in front and I was doing the opposite since I am a lefty. This made my first coach tell me that I am not fit to skate. Since my father is also a sportsperson, he took it up as a challenge to prove that anybody can skate. He went and got himself certified as a coach and started his academy just to make me skate the way everyone else skates.
Which is your favorite championship you have participated in?
My favorite race was last year in Barcelona, the World Roller Games, which is a world championship. We, Indians, have finished in the top 15 or top 12, but none have crossed the top 10 mark. I was in the top 5 in 2019, which was my personal best and the best in the whole country. In 2018, I took it as a challenge that I have to be in the top 10. Much to my surprise and luck, the track worked in my favor since I am lightweight and very agile. I ranked 5th in the 2019 World Roller Games and that has been the best ever performance by an Indian in any races we have played abroad.
How did it feel?
It felt like a dream. The world champions came to me and told me that I have a bright future ahead. They almost feared me being better than them, and I could read that in their eyes. They came up to me and told me that I am capable of much more and that felt AMAZING.
Tell us about the challenges you have faced.
The infrastructure in India is the biggest challenge right now. Most of the national championship skaters who are skating all over India have a track. It is a 200meter standard track they all have that they practice on. Till now I haven’t had a standard track, I used to skate on a miniature track of 100 mts, which is, half the size of the actual standard track. I have been training just on that and I have been trying to better myself in every possible way. The actual challenge for me was the track. I never knew the strategies or trajectories of the actual track. So before any championship, I used to be the first person on the track. I’d go there 10-15 days before other people arrived. I used to skate, I used to clock-in more hours so I could get to know and feel the track for me to perform better. Right now, after finishing 5th in the world championship, we decided to build an international standard track; and hence, my father and I are building India’s first-ever international standard road circuit road circuittrack in Bangalore.
What’s next for you?
I was aiming for a podium this year at the world championship. I was very well prepared. I went for training with the world champions themselves. But, because of COVID, the championship got delayed. Everything is on hold. I am just patiently waiting, keeping myself fit, as much as possible to come back again and perform better. Next year’s world championship and Asian championships are my main goals. I have had 3 Asian bronze medals; I want to convert those to gold for sure, next year.
I am still waiting to unleash the beast.
Your fav monster energy drink?
. Because I sometimes go loco on the track.
A piece of advice to the younger generation who wants to pursue skating.
No matter what the consequences, it’s never too late to work hard. Always go by your strength, don’t go by the opponent’s weakness.