A Non-Resident Indian Bharatnatyam dancer,with 17 years of stage experience behind her,will be at the Olympic stadium when the curtains go up for the London Games on July 27.
But this isnt a story about Danny Boyle,the brain behind the opening ceremony and Slumdog Millionaire director,and his troupe of performers with Indian connections. Its about a classical dancer,Goa-born Siona Fernandes,who migrated to New Zealand and made it to the Olympic boxing squad of her adopted nation.
Earning the right to wear Kiwi colours in London just days ago,the 29-year-old dancer-turned-boxer hasnt yet come to terms with the most heartening news of her five-year-old sporting career. I still cant believe that I will represent New Zealand in the Olympics. Moving to Auckland with my family in 2007,I never thought how life will change, she told The Sunday Express.
And in Bangalore,at Sionas Bharatnatyam alma mater Kalakshithi,they are equally surprised.
She was at our institute for more than five years. She was an avid learner. We never knew she was into sports,forget boxing,forget Olympics. She was a shy girl, said M R Krishnamurthy,head of Kalakshithi.
But Siona says she was the sporty kind even when she was a regular at dance school. I represented Goa and Karnataka in basketball at the junior level.
When her father Dr John Fernandes,Director of Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour in Goa,landed a job with the District Health Board in New Zealand,Siona had to shift priorities. Not sure about continuing with Bharatnatyam,she joined a gymnasium. Within months,her dedication and discipline got her the job of a fitness trainer.
During one of her workouts,she noticed a pamphlet calling for boxing enrolment. That chance sighting triggered a passion. I fell in love with the sport instantly. I was the national champ in 2009 and won a bronze medal at an international meet in 2011. Despite the punishing schedule in the ring,there have been days when Siona has not been able to overcome the urge to put on her Bharatnatyam finery. My mother wanted me to learn dance and I learnt it for more than 17 years. It has been of help. It has made me more agile,improved my footwork.
In London,Siona looks forward to a meeting with Indian boxing star MC Mary Kom. Both are in the 51 kg category and the Kiwi might just run into the five-times world champion in the ring.