Defying all odds to make a mark in the sport of bodybuilding, 33-year-old molecular biologist from the National Institute Of Virology (NIV) Deepika Chowdhury is now set to represent India at the Arnold Classic to be held at Melbourne in March. She is the country’s only female athlete to hold a pro card in bodybuilding and will compete against 15 contestants across the world for the best body. The competition named after actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is an annual event and conducted by the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB). After Mr. Olympia, the Arnold Classic is the second biggest bodybuilding championship across the globe and this will be the first time that an Indian is participating.
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For Deepika, it has not been an easy journey as she prepares now for the figure category in the competition to be held from March 17-19 at Melbourne. Deepika, who has won several medals at the Steveston Metropolitan Championship, Atlantic States Championship and others, has also set her eyes on the Olympia title.
With biology and bodybuilding being her passion, Deepika admits the journey to follow both careers has not been easy. “My work at NIV is really exciting and I have the support of the director and others,” says Deepika, who is currently engaged in learning tissue culture techniques to prepare dengue testing kits.
“However, I have to strike a balance,” she adds as she recalls her troubled childhood and how the onus of looking after her brother fell on her mother. “I got married early and it was at my husband’s persuasion that I joined the gym. I was overweight and had strained relations with my in-laws. At home, I had lost my confidence and was extremely stressed out,” Deepika recalls.
“Initially, I hated the gym as I did not understand what to do. So I joined a basic course at a fitness academy, undertook a sports nutrition course and had this intense desire to become a figure athlete. It is not just about muscles and abs but how you can make your body strong,” she says. It was in Delhi at the Sheru Classic bodybuilding event that she met Florida based Shannon Dey, founder of Bombshell Fitness, a competitive fitness training team.
“My life changed. I was so inspired by her devotion to make women physically and mentally fit. In our country, there is no one to guide women for competing in bodybuilding as a sport. That’s when I decided to train under her and make fitness a priority in my life,” she recalls. “Yes my mother had a problem when I wore a bikini, but my husband supported me,” she adds.
Gennifer Strobo, among the world’s most famous pro figure athletes coached Deepika and prepared her training and diet plan. In Pune, she is grateful to Ardesh Rustomji, her personal trainer. “I have a strict workout schedule that includes one-and-a-half hour weight training in the evening after work and cardio in the morning,” she says. Not many women have been trained for bodybuilding as a sport and for Deepika, it is now a challenge to win this round and encourage more women to take it up.