Vallabhajosyula Sriramulu is no ordinary 95-year-old. This retired Navigation Commander from Visakhapatnam is, in fact, a world-class athlete. His performance at the 23rd World Masters Athletics Championship held at Malaga, Spain, dispels all notions about age and fitness. The nonagenarian won the silver, for the 90-95 age group, in the 10-km speed walk category.
Speaking about his win, an elated Sriramulu says, “I feel satisfied to win silver but there’s always scope for improvement. It was a demanding race because of the stringent rules and I thought some consideration should have been given to us. I wish there was more encouragement so that I can get more medals.”
Born in Machilipatnam in 1923, Sriramulu joined the Royal Indian Navy in 1944 during the World War II. Two years later, he was posted in Karachi and after partition, he returned to Mumbai and eventually retired in 1979.
Apparently, it was the serene beach road in Visakhapatnam that prompted Sriramulu to walk. “I was a bookworm during college days. My hobby was yachting in the Indian Navy but post-retirement, I took to walking as a healthy pursuit. I slowly started with short distances and gradually extended up to 10 km. In 2010, for the first time, I took part in the Asian Championship and won four golds. Since then, I haven’t looked back,” he shares.
Sriramulu’s daily routine would put most of us to shame. “I go to bed at 8 pm and wake up at 2.30 am. I prepare my own ginger tea and then go for a walk at 3.30 am. In the early mornings, the Beach Road will be calm and traffic-free so that I can happily walk for about 10 km at a stretch,” he reveals, adding, “I also do weightlifting (dumbbells) because I believe weightlifting retains the calcium in the bones.”
Inspired by Sriramulu’s efforts, the municipal commissioner of the city in 2014 had banned the movement of vehicles from 5 am to 7.30 am on Beach Road so walkers could avoid traffic and pollution.
But his fitness journey hasn’t always been an easy one. In 2016, his biggest challenge was when he had developed knee pain. His son, a doctor in the US, even cautioned him to stop running and take rest. “But I have completely recovered from my knee pain by doing oil-pulling thrice a day. I continue the practice even now. Many might not believe it but it’s true,” recalls Sriramulu, whose secret to success is ‘eat less and work out more’.
Sriramulu’s earlier feats
1 Three golds at Asian Masters Athletics Championship, Singapore in 2010
2 Gold at World Masters Championship, California in 2011
3 Four golds at The Asian Masters Athletics Competition held in Malaysia in 2014
4 Gold at the World Masters Athletics Competition, France in 2015
5 Three Golds at the XXII World Masters Athletics Championships, Australia in 2016
6 Declared ‘Athlete of Asia’ in 2016