The Iron Woman
By Juliana Sridhar


Dr. Arathi Arun, a dentist by profession, who is making waves in the sport of powerlifting, was born into a conservative middle class family. Her father was in the construction business and her mother, a homemaker. She has a younger sister Anupama who is a computer engineer.

Arathi did her schooling in St. Ann’s High School in Secunderabad and was married off at a very young age of 18 to Dr. A.V.Arun, an Orthodontist and shifted base to Chennai post marriage. Though she was a badminton player at the State level, her parents did not see any future for her in sports and wanted her to become either a doctor or an engineer. Therefore in tune with the wishes of her parents, she completed her BDS (dental) in 1997 and became a dental surgeon.  She is the Director of Smile Centre multispeciality Dental Clinic at Anna Nagar, Chennai.

Says  Arathi ‘’Life has always been a struggle and filled with challenges for me, but I always made my way out successfully.’’

After becoming a dental surgeon, like any other mother, her whole world revolved around her home, family and clinic. However, she felt that there was something missing from her life and kept searching for that missing piece.

Her journey with powerlifting dates back to the year 2015 when she visited the gym to shed the excess pounds gained after her second child was born. It was in the gym that she saw people who were not heavily built but still lifting heavy weights and was inspired by them.

She made enquiries about powerlifting but was put off saying that it is a men’s sport and hence not suitable for a married woman with kids. But Arathi was adamant and did not give up the idea. She began watching videos on powerlifting on YouTube particularly the ones of women global champions. She says that it gave her so much of confidence that she decided to go for it.

Initially it was akin to walking on a tight rope as she was 40 years old with 2 kids and a dentist as well. However, she was determined to take the plunge and there has been no looking back since then.

Arathi has been lucky to have a supportive better half and children who made many sacrifices for her. They were always there to cheer her up and encourage her when she felt low.

Arathi’s journey has been filled with many challenges but with her grit and determination, she set foot into the male dominated sport of powerlifting. She had to practice for 4 to 5 hours a day, totally gave up junk food, underwent a lot of pain etc, but she never gave up…..

Her dedication to the sport paid off after 2 years when she won her first gold medal at the Tamil Nadu State Powerlifting Championship in 2018 and four months later, she struck gold again. This time it was in a National Championship held in Kerala. She followed it up with another gold medal at the Federation Cup held in Kolkata and her dream to represent India came true when she was selected to represent the country at the Asian Powerlifting Championship held at Hong Kong. There were 9 women and 25 men that formed the Indian squad and Arathi was the lone person from Tamil Nadu. It was a moment of pride for Arathi to wear the Indian tri-colour jersey and fly along with the Indian team.

Arathi put her best foot forward at the event and won gold for her country. She says ‘’ When I stood on the victory stand and saw the Indian flag being raised to the accompaniment of the national anthem, I had goose bumps and that one minute made my four years of hard work and training worthwhile.’’

From then on winning just became a habit for Arathi who started winning gold medals at regular intervals. She then went on to win gold at the National Powerlifting Championship held at Gudiyattam.

Next, she was selected to represent the country at the Commonwealth Powerlifting held in Canada and she made the country proud by winning 5 gold medals.

She later won gold at the National Bench Press Championship in New Delhi in November 2019 and was selected to represent India at the Asian Powerlifting Championship to be held in Indonesia in May 2020 but this was rescheduled as the Covid pandemic had struck the world by then.

After a break due to the pandemic, Arathi took part in the Classic National Powerlifting Championship held in Allepey, Kerala in December 2021 and won gold yet again. She also created 4 national records here.

She was selected for the Asian Championship 2022 to be held in Coimbatore and was hoping to fulfill her dream to create an Asian record but due to a stroke of bad luck,  Arathi fractured her right arm during a practice session while she was lifting 170 kgs. She had to undergo an emergency surgery and the fracture was treated by attaching a titanium plate to her right arm with 12 screws. After this surgery, she was advised to retire from the sport as it would be difficult for her to lift heavy weights in future.

This left Arathi depressed for some time but not for long. She sprung back into action and her determination paid off when she took part in the Chennai district powerlifting association and won a gold medal in December 2022, just 6 months after she underwent surgery.

Arathi is now selected to represent the state of Tamil Nadu in the National Classic Powerlifting Championship to be held in Rajam, Andhra  Pradesh from July 12th to 16th. Arathi hopes to perform well here and walk away with a medal or two.

She has been recently appointed as a member in the ICC (Internal Complaint Committee for Protection of Women Athletes) in the Taekwondo Federation of India.

Arathi does not just have iron fingers to lift weights but has green fingers too and loves to green up spaces in her garden. Though she is not a movie person, she wouldn’t mind watching one if a friend or family member recommends a good film.  Her favourite colours are green and purple and the cuisine she likes best are Thai and Chinese.

Her normal day begins with getting her children ready for school.  She then works in the clinic from 10 to 1p.m. and works out in the gym from 5 to 8p.m.After that,. she gets to sit with her children to check if they have completed their homework etc.

Arathi’s husband Dr A.V. Arun is an orthodontist and was the President of the Indian Dental Association, Chennai Metro branch. He is also the Director of Dr. Arun’s photography and vintage camera museum. Her son Tanishq is a professional photographer and will be leaving to Canada shortly to pursue his masters training in photography. Her daughter Akansha is in class 10 in Chennai Public School.

Arathi has come a long way and has plans to create new records in the Asian and World Powerlifting Championships.  With her enthusiasm, focus and positive attitude, I am sure that she will achieve all her dreams. As Kobe Yamada said ‘’Follow your dreams, they know the way.’’

-Juliana Sridhar is a lawyer and a columnist.



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