Chetna Sharma, the woman Bahubali who frightens male rivals with her brawn and brain

The word Bahubali denotes a person with strong arms. In some Indian folk tales, the term was applied to any man who could display great strength and film director S.S. Rajamouli made the name famous with his Bahubali films. But of late there is a woman who is showing that she is eligible to be called Bahubali. She is none other than India’s six-time national champion arm wrestler Chetna Sharma.

She can easily defeat her male rivals if they contest against her in any competition. Now whenever she enters a tournament, the male arm wrestlers feel hesitant to take part. At a sports festival in IIT Mumbai, she defeated all the men who battled against her. More than 100 aspiring arm wrestlers who were mostly male, took part in the event but finally it was Chetna who took the top spot.

A resident of Guwahati in Assam, she was fond of sports from her childhood since there were several sportspersons in her family. In school she played different sports and excelled at high jump, long jump and running races. Many times she was adjudged the best athlete in her school. But the idea of arm wrestling did not come into her mind until much later in life.

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It was her husband Nayan Jyoti Bora, an enthusiastic arm wrestler and fitness trainer, encouraged her to take up arm wrestling as a sport. Initially she was hesitant. She had no idea that this was an organised sport. She was under the impression that it was something that men did just to show off at any informal gathering or at parties.

But her husband managed to convince her to take it seriously. Being an arm wrestler for many years he could understand the power in her arms and felt that she would be good at this sport. In 2011 she took part in her first arm wrestling competition but did not succeed. For two years she had limited success and also suffered injuries from the struggles.

She was unaware that arm wrestling, like all other sports, has techniques and tricks that have to be mastered. The way that the wrist is flexed, a tactic called “hooking”, side pressure and back pressure, all these are methods to put the opponent into a disadvantageous position and ultimately pin down his or her arm. To master these techniques, one needs a thorough grasp of the biomechanics that are involved and a lot of practice and experience.

After a while Chetna wanted to give it up because she felt that she would not be able to master this sport. But again her husband persuaded her to continue. After two years of struggle and hard work, she got her first success when she won the Assam state championship in 2013. That victory gave her motivation and she decided that she would devote more time and effort into her sport.

But first she had to obtain her masters degree. So she took a break and dedicated herself to studies. She was wise enough to realise that she would have to keep up her academic pursuits too if she wanted to do well in life. After completing her MCA from Assam Engineering College, she again switched focus to her sport.

Seeing her steady progress, her male rivals attempted to demoralise her mentally. They scoffed at her efforts and ridiculed her for taking up a sport that was dominated by men. But she just ignored all the taunts and persisted with her efforts. She began working out regularly with weights to gain strength. She also ate a high protein diet and gained arm strength rapidly. She worked on her forearms, biceps, triceps, back and wrist. She also did deadlifts with heavy barbells, biceps curls and pull ups which most arm wrestlers do.

While wrestling, the otherwise mild mannered woman would become ferocious and aggressive. Such was her attacking technique and aggression that those men who had earlier taunted her began to respect her ability. In 2020 Chetna won the Pro Panja League in Delhi and in 2021 she was the winner of the supermatch title in the Pro Panja League championship in Goa.

For several years she has been getting invitations from international arm wrestling federations to take part in events outside India. But lack of finances has prevented her from going. Her dream is to win the Asian championship but before that she will have to find a sponsor who can put up the required funds. In the meantime, she is determined that she will continue to rule the roost in India with her strong arms and her fanatical determination to defeat all rivals be they men or women.

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