Sarath becomes first Keralite coach to represent India in Commonwealth Judo Championship
When the Indian judo team leaves for Birmingham, England for the Commonwealth Championship to be held there from September 25 to 30, it will be a proud moment for Kerala. For the first time in history, the Indian team will have a Keralite as a coach.
The man of the moment is Sarath Chandran, native of Kuriachira in Thrissur district. Sarath, who has been the state judo coach for the last seven years, has been selected as India’s junior team coach. The Indian team comprising of 56 players has high hopes about the event.
Sarath, who is 31 now, has been practicing Judo since he was nine years old. During a summer vacation camp at Jawahar Bal Bhavan in Thrissur, Joy Varghese, who is a highly rated coach himself, spotted Sarath and started training him. Sarath soon took to the sport and never looked back.
Slowly but steadily rising through the ranks at district and state levels, Sarath secured silver in All India Inter-University Judo championships. He has also won bronze medal at national judo championships in junior category twice. Sarath won his last national medal in 2013.
Sarath started coaching in 2011 after creating history by becoming the first Keralite to secure A grade in coaching from Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NS-NIS) in Patiala, Punjab. Commonly known as National Institute of Sports, NS-NIS is the academic wing of Sports Authority of India (SAI) and is Asia's largest sports institute.
Sarath’s achievement did more than just raise eyebrows and turn heads. Judo is a sport that is based on strength and technique and has tremendous physical demands. Due to this reason, states like Punjab and Haryana, with their rich wrestling tradition, has been dominating the national scene. During his time at NS-NIS, Sarath studied and competed with others from northern states to secure A grade in coaching.
Sarath did not stop his pursuit to reach greater heights there. He completed two solidarity courses for coaches offered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). While one course was held in India, the other was in Thailand.
Sarath’s first major achievement as a coach was when his student Aswin secured Kerala’ first senior national medal in Judo in 2015. Sarath’s next major achievement came at the All India Inter University Judo Championships held in Pune following year.
“I was the Calicut University women’s judo team coach then. Our players secured two gold, two bronze and one silver medal to finish second overall. There were around 110 university teams from all over the country competing in the event and we lost the championship for just one point,” said Sarath.
The second place finish becomes all the more important considering the fact that the Calicut University team was up against several universities such as Punjab and G.N.D.U (Amritsar) who are known as judo specialists.
“That was a team effort. We worked really hard and it paid off. Also, I was assisted by Maria Lee, a female coach from Punjab who has been working in Kerala for over a decade, in training the team,” Sarath added.
Sarath is now working as a judo coach at the Thrissur District Sports Council, appointed by the Kerala State Sports Council. He is in charge of the sports hostel and day-boarding scheme of Kerala sports council.
Apart from coaches and the sports council, Sarath thanks his family for all the support. Though he is the first commonwealth judo coach from the state, Sarath is not the first commonwealth coach at his home. That achievement goes to Sarath’s elder sister Chithra Chandramohan, who is a former national coach in weightlifting.
A five-time national champion, Chithra has been India’s weightlifting coach for the commonwealth games several years ago. After her marriage with national badminton player Madhu, Chithra has been residing in Valarkakvu, near Kuriachira. Sarath’s eldest sister Honey Chandran used to be a basketball player.
Sarath acknowledges that a large part of his success also belongs to his wife Lakshmi T.K, who is a teacher at Kendriya Vidhyalaya in Belgaum, Karanataka. The two got married in 2018. “Just like my mother Sheela supported my father Chandramohan in helping me and my sisters become sportspersons, my wife Lakshmi is one of my strongest supporters,” said Sarath.
Sarath’s students will compete in the judo events at Birmingham on September 26 and 27. “It will be a great learning experience, as a team and for me personally. There are several strong nations in the championship and we can learn a lot from them. Experience is key in judo and international events like these help us understand where we are and what we should improve,” Sarath said about the championship.
Sarath did not hide his wish for one of his students to secure a medal in the event. After returning from UK, Sarath will focus on selecting the Kerala team for national judo championship.