47-year-old Bhavna Tokekar recently won 4 gold medals at the World Powerlifting Congress’ Open Asian Powerlifting Championships of AWPC/WPC in Chelyabinsk, Russia. According to The Week, the tournament saw 500 players from 46 countries, including 14 Indians. WPC is a worldwide federation to which 46 countries are affiliated. Tokekar won 2 gold medals in bench press events and powerlifting! She lifted 267.5kg in powerlifting and 62.5kg in bench press!
Tokekar’s career in weight training is as recent as six years only! She has played table-tennis at the district level in Gujarat. Not only is she the wife of an Indian Air Force fighter pilot and Kargil War hero Group Captain Shreepad Tokekar, she is also a mother of two teens!
Check out our exclusive interview with Bhavna Tokekar on #FeatureFriday
DissDash: Tell us a little about yourself. Where you are from and what do you do?
Bhavna Tokekar: I can’t really associate myself with any one state. I was born in Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh) and did my entire schooling from Godhra and Ahmedabad in Gujarat. My mother tongue is Marathi, but having stayed in Gujarat for so long I am a Gujarati at heart. I am fluent in both Marathi and Gujarati. I married a fighter pilot from the Indian Air Force and have since then traveled all over India. So I consider myself an Indian. I am 47 years old, mother of 2 teenagers, and a homemaker by choice. And now, I am also a Power-lifter.
DissDash: What inspired you to pursue power-lifting?
Tokekar: I believe nothing can inspire you or motivate you, it has to come from within you. If you ask me who I admire or look up to I’d say lots of sportspersons. But my favorite is MC Mary Kom. Not just because she is Worlds’ best boxer but more due to the fact that for her it was family first and everything else later. That’s precisely what even I strongly believe in.
DissDash: How did power-lifting become ‘doing something for health reasons’ to ‘representing India at a global level’?
Tokekar: I started weight training to get stronger, feel better, and to reduce the side effects of the anti-allergic medicines prescribed to me, but after a few months it became more of a passion and remains so till date. I had been weight training rigorously even when I never knew that there is a masters’ category where people beyond 40yrs can compete. I came to know about the masters’ category through Instagram and since I had been so passionate about my workouts the shift wasn’t very difficult. Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. After seeing my passion, hard work and strength, my trainers encouraged me to compete. However, the avenue to participate emerged through the internet when I got in touch with Mr. Azmat (my current coach) and appeared for trials in Bengaluru in May.
DissDash: Who are your support systems? Family? Friends?
Tokekar: My husband and my kids are my support system. I can write a book on them and their support. My husband, also my training partner, started weight training so that we could be together for most of the time when he’s at home. He makes sure my workouts are never missed, my dietary supplements are taken on time and my diet is nutritional as per what I need keeping in mind my workout schedule, fatigue, and plan ahead. He is a strict taskmaster as far as ensuring my workout schedule and diet are concerned. My kids are also very supportive and considerate of my absence from home every evening. In fact now even they join me at the gym.
DissDash: What do you think about the whole issue of body shaming and the beauty of women being measured by Bollywood standards?
Tokekar: There are no parameters or indices defined to measure beauty based on a certain body type, body weight, proportionality or comparison with someone else. The focus should be more on health and fitness rather than the color of skin, eyes, hair, height, etc. Bollywood standards are no benchmark either.
DissDash: Was your age a hurdle in your way to glory?
Tokekar: No. Not for me, at least.
DissDash: What is the best appreciation that you have received to date?
Tokekar: The best appreciation I have received to date was that from my kids of being the strongest and best mother. My elder son Ishaan while speaking to a journalist from THE WEEK magazine, from VIT, Vellore where he is studying (3rd yr Mechanical Engineering) had said “It is not just about winning gold medals at the championship, I know my mother is the best and she will excel in whatever she does. I am extremely confident in her.”
DissDash: What message would you like to give to women who forget to care for themselves while caring about their family?
Tokekar: Healthy and health concerned parents give similar values to their children. Since the mother is mostly entrusted with the responsibility of rearing children, it is her attitude and inclination towards physical fitness which will eventually rub off on her kids. Notwithstanding the above, the outlook of the parents towards games, sports, and physical fitness plays a major role in the extent of participation of children in games and sports, both at school and home. This is more relevant in the current context due to the enhanced availability of smartphones, video games and computers, and the ever-shrinking playgrounds and games facilities in our society. I would like to request all women to take care of their personal health as much as that of their family members so as to devote adequate attention and develop the right attitude towards physical fitness. In the long run, it would improve the overall health of our society and the nation. After all, “a healthy family is a happy family.”
DissDash: What message you would like to give to homemakers who by choice or for whatever reasons quit their jobs and at times feel that they are doing nothing worthwhile?
Tokekar: I was asked this by a very close relative if my aim or purpose in life was solely cooking for kids and husband, or looking after them and just being a homemaker. My answer even at that time and today remains the same, my priorities are different. Please remember, nobody has forced you to become a wife or mother, enjoy raising your kids and be proud of your decisions. I believe that raising my kids, giving them good values making them good citizens of the country is the best possible way to serve the country. So be proud of what you are doing, and yes do take time out for yourself too. Every day do atleast one thing which YOU love to do.
Come December, Bhavna Tokekar will be participating in the Powerlifting World Championship in Moscow and is looking for sponsorship for the same. She can be contacted through her Instagram.