Heart on Fire, Head in the Refrigerator, A Champion’s Race

Dr. Priyanka Sarkar: Somewhere in Melbourne at the Rod Laver Arena, while Novak was battling for his 22nd Grand Slam title and 10th Australian Open, I was sitting in front of my laptop to watch another match. Another upcoming player one day who will take the bigger stage.

He came to me as an 18-year-old guy. He told me what he does-drives cars. I asked him if he had a driving license. He laughed and said, I am a professional motorcar racer. And then I made a mental note to google what even motor car racing means! For the next 1 hour, he explained how he started racing and how he has been doing so far. He did win the Championship already by then.

So, I asked him why he wants to work with me if he already was a winner. He replied, “I know I am good, but I want to be the best”. I asked if I should speak to his dad about the fees and he said, you can talk to me. Now, in front of me was an independent individual who has already matured faster than his age. And I thought should also retain the teenager in him.

Aditya Swaminathan at MRF MMSC fmsci Indian National Car Racing Championship 2022.

This was the theme for our collaboration which is almost a year old now. Until December, he used to tell me how his practice or training went, and we would work on the shortcomings and make sure we improved on those fronts. And one day, he calls me and says, “I have news”. His usual I have news is “I met Sunil Chettri”, “I had a small accident”, “I have a fitness test” or “I attended a concert”.

Over the months, we emphasized that we would work on him being an athlete and him also being an individual and so this “news” was important for both of us to retain the individual in the athlete. I braced myself for another piece of news and he said “Guess what? I am driving F2000 and participating in the Volkswagen Polo Championship”. Another mental note to check the cars. I asked if this is good news and he said “yes”. Something I have been waiting for.

So, we sat down for goal setting, route map and everything that needs to be done physically, nutritionally and emotionally. He was charged and I have never seen him happier. One of my goals was to make this year special for him in all ways as it is his 10th year in racing.

Unlike other racers, Aditya has no sponsors. His father sponsors his races as and when they can afford it. So, the parents cut their costs in every way to be able to afford their only son to continue his passion. Adithya, in the off-season, works harder trying to reach out to sponsors. But if life could be easier, it wouldn’t be called life. Another story of an Indian sportsperson whose life is not easy being an athlete.

Back to the present, we got to work on the condition that I get a duly signed T-shirt from the championship, and he cheekily said, they don’t give more than 1 and I said, even then, the T-shirt is mine and he should sign it. And then he said, fine.

The best part of our sessions is that he knows that I do not know about cars and so he explains the physics and technicalities of driving each car. I end up taking more notes than him. I always joke that if only I met him a little earlier, I would have become a female race car driver myself.

Aditya Swaminathan at MRF MMSC fmsci Indian National Car Racing Championship 2022.

D-day comes and he Is racing. On 21st of Jan, in race 1, he reaches 4th and in the 2nd race, his car is hit by another car. I thought my heart just stopped breathing. All I wanted was for him to be safe. I see him coming out of his car and he retires as the car cannot be used now.

I dropped him a message stating that I saw the race and if he was safe. He needed his space. But then he said, I am ready for tomorrow and don’t worry, I am safe. That was the moment I knew I had little to worry about him. 2nd day (22nd of Jan), race 1, he finishes 3rd and race 2 he again finishes 3rd. Couldn’t have been more relieved. I texted him to tell him how proud I was, and he said, this was a job half done and we still have the bigger goal, the coming weekend.

We spoke about our mental strategies for the coming races, and he called me to tell me that he reached Chennai safely. I was set for another 2 days of high-speed and heart-in-the-mouth experience. But after watching him race for 2 days, I knew he would be fine. 28th Jan, race 1, he finishes 6th but is still in contention for the 3rd position for the championship.

Aditya Swaminathan at MRF MMSC fmsci Indian National Car Racing Championship 2022.

In race 2, he was doing good until 7 laps at the 3rd position and almost closer to being 2nd until another car just hit his car forcing Aditya to retire with just 3 laps to go. 4th day doesn’t go well either. And just like that from being a championship contender, he finishes retiring after a bad start with his car. Utterly disappointing and I only texted him “Come back home safe… You gave it all. Nothing to beat yourself about.” He replied “You’ve been working very hard despite everything and I’m very grateful. Sorry I couldn’t give back a Championship trophy.

And I replied “our determination and hard work will take you places farther than those who stood on the podium today. And I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else except for you no matter the results. The trophy lies in the cabinet, but it is the ethics that will take you places:)

Adithya, the athlete must have had a tough season, but Adithya the individual has risen above the situations thrown at him and for me, that is an athlete to watch out for.

And if you are someone who watches matches and wonders why a sportsperson is not able to perform, remember the hardships that they must go through that are not seen, heard, and aired. And champions are those who go through all the tough times but never give up.  

Aditya Swaminathan just continues to grow and remains a contender to be a Champion!! And he is still in search of Sponsors who can help him and he is in no way going to ever give up without being a Champion!!

The author is a Sport Psychologist.

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Sports