Karnam Malleswari happy to inspire a generation with her Olympic moment

The Indian weightlifter became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal with her bronze medal finish at Sydney 2000.

By Naveen Peter

Indian weightlifter Karnam Malleswari famously raised the bar for Indian women when she became the first ever female Olympic medallist at Sydney 2000.

Her historic bronze medal still shines as brightly today as it did twenty years ago.

“The feeling is still the same. It is just that I know the real value of the medal now,” the Indian legend told the Times of India in an interview.

“When I meet people, they say that I am an inspiration to many girls in the country. It feels good that people respect my achievement. What else do you need in life.”

Changing the outlook

Growing up in an era when women in sports was still a distant dream in the country, the 45-year-old’s achievement at the biggest stage proved to be the impetus that helped push many young girls into taking up sports as a career.

India’s Karnam Malleswari (right) won the bronze medal at Sydney 2000.

It’s this contribution to the Indian sporting ecosystem that Karnam Malleswari holds dear to her.

“Unlike today’s time, I didn’t get too many monetary rewards, but I got a lot of name and fame after my medal,” said the Andhra athlete.

“I felt good when my medal was celebrated by so many Indians. I felt I had done something good for my country.”

While her Olympic medal is the most talked-about achievement, not many know that Karman Malleswari was one of the most accomplished lifters in the world building up to Sydney 2000.

The Indian ace had pocketed the World Championships gold in 1994 and 1995 apart from the two bronze medals in 1993 and 1996. At the continental stage, Karnam Malleswari had the Asian Games silver from the 1994 and the 1996 Games.

But Karnam Malleswari's legacy does not just stop there.

Aside from the generation of athletes she inspired, Malleswari herself is trying to shape the rising talent in the country.

“I am hoping to train lifters from my academy, who can win medals at the 2024 and 2028 Games.”