Sunday, 1 November 2015

Around the World: India

Around the World is an occasional series celebrating the female bodybuilders of a particular country, and examining any issues peculiar to muscle women there.

The last time we were in India was in June, when we met Mumbai's Ashwini Waskar, struggling to gain acceptance from her family, sponsorship and the right to wear anything other than a very modest pair of shorts as she flexed her muscles on stage.

Shweta Rathore, the subject of today's post, is also a female bodybuilder from Mumbai, but that's where the similarity ends. Shweta, as you can see, not only gets to wear considerably less than a modest pair of shorts on stage, but she's also got a considerable social media presence, sponsorship that Ashwini can only dream of, her own fitness business and, most recently, a ton of mainstream media coverage.

The reason for this media storm was Shweta's silver medal in the "Fitness Physique" category at the 49th WBPSF Asian Championships at the start of October.

Now this may not be "female bodybuilding" as you or I understand it, and the WBPSF (World Bodybuilding & Physique Sports Federation) and some of their name's for their categories - such as Shweta's own "Fitness Physique", which turns out to be what the IFBB, for example, call plain "Fitness" - may not be the most familiar either.

Nevertheless, Shweta's success in Tashkent made her, according to the Indian media, "the first Indian female bodybuilder to bag a medal in a continental-level tournament", and the sympathetic coverage that has followed in the Indian media can only be a good thing in terms of spreading the muscle gospel in a country where traditionally conservative views about gender roles are just beginning to be challenged.

And Shweta is very much at the cutting edge of that challenge in her advocacy of weight training for women, ownership of her own "Fitness Academy", as well as becoming the first Indian female bodybuilder to attract a major sponsor.

The best moment of my life, said Shweta after the show. I am really glad and honoured to make my country proud, holding our flag in the front of world. And as a result of her second place, she'll be representing over 1 billion people once again when she competes at the WBPSF World Championships in Thailand at the end of this month.

Shweta's on Instagram (5,500 followers and counting), has a Facebook fan page, and, as this unbelievably over-the-top preview promises, will have her own website up and running before long. You can watch her fitness routine, as well as other action from her and all the other categories at the 49th Asian Championships on WBPSF TV.

आनंद लें!

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