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This Under-16 cyclist from Apeejay School, Kharghar is preparing for Olympics 2024

National-level gold medalist, Snehal Shatrughna Mali talks about her training, fitness regime and key learnings

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Coming home one day from her gym near to her residence in Kharghar, Mumbai, Snehal Shatrughna Mali found herself keenly observing a hoarding about cyclists. Soon, she went to the nearby sports club, Soni Spin Club, with her father, Shatrughna Mali, to enquire how she could become a professional cyclist. Meeting her coach, Mr. Mr. Rajendra Soni, an International-level cyclist who has won several accolades for India, Snehal was sure to pursue her interest. The class 10 student of Apeejay School, Kharghar didn’t look back from there, and in a span of one-year won a bronze and gold medal at the 25th National Road Cycling Championship and 26th National Road Cycling Championship, respectively. In an interview with her father, she talks about how a sports player is ‘made with team effort.’ Edited excerpts:

Who inspires you for the sport?

Snehal: My father. He is a black belt in Karate and in his 20s, he was an ace National-level sports player. He is with me during all my practice sessions and he keeps pushing to become a better cyclist each day.

What does your practice schedule look like?

Snehal: I wake up every day at 5:30 in the morning to practice and work out. Fitness is the most essential component of cycling and I also go to the gym to keep myself at it. Practice schedules are rigorous and indoors I do it with equipment such as a Tacx trainer.

Mr. Mali: For every practice session, I accompany her on the road in my car. At these sessions, Snehal is required to cycle for more than 100 kilometers and she needs to keep up her strength. Also, since she is speeding, I along with her coaches and team ensure that she is safe from bikers, truck drivers etc. We are practicing each day to make her stronger, and amongst all this, the great learning is that a sports player does not emerge, s/he is prepared with the support of an entire team.

How lucrative can professional cycling become?

Snehal: At the moment, my focus is to become better at the sport. As I have been performing well, I wish to make a career out of cycling. For this kind of sport, there is a huge market for fitness-related brands who are looking for brand representatives. Even now, I have received sponsorships from pharmaceutical companies, fitness academies, and non-governmental organisations such as SteadFast Nutrition, Only Nutrition, Karnala Sports Academy, Robin Hood Army and Smile Foundation.

Your role models?

Snehal: I look up to PV Sindhu. In terms of Indian cyclists, Rahul Singh and my coach Rajendra Soni inspire me.

What are your key learnings at cycling?

Snehal: The most important one is to complete the whole race and not give up.

How has Apeejay School, Kharghar helped you in your sports journey?

Shenal: The school has always encouraged my talent. I am very thankful to my teachers and school staff.

What food precautions do you have to take care of?

Snehal: Before the competitions, it is mandatory to have home-cooked food. No sugar or fast food is allowed. The meals have to be plain and simple without a lot of spice.

Any short-comings that you may have faced due to Covid-19?

Mr. Mali: Yes, each sport comes with its own set of challenges. Due to the pandemic, training outside had become difficult. Since Snehal is a teenager, the vaccinations have just started and travelling from one place to another for competitions, getting medical tests and examinations has become challenging. We are now waiting for the government guidelines as Snehal is preparing to appear at an International-level competition in Tokyo this year. 

What would be your focus for the next 5 years?

Snehal: I want to be part of the 2024 Olympics and represent my country.

Mrini Devnani is Senior Correspondent (Newsroom). She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has a passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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