World motorcycling champion Aishwarya Pissay summarizes her journey in “men-centered” sport
Motorsport is not a popular sport in India. Thinking of turning your hobby into a passion, undertaking it professionally, being able to make a career there, succeed at the highest level, requires guts, determination and passion. To be able to win championships on the left, right and center, you need a special talent like Aishwarya Pissay.
Pissay, who just won the second straight National Rally Championship victory a few days ago, has won over 10 championships, both nationally and internationally, and has done wonders in recent years.
A tiny number of people participate from India so calling it a ‘men-centered’ sport is not fair and Pissay does it over and over again and braves the injuries and difficult terrains of Jordan in Portugal by passing through Dubai and the Himalayas is a feat. and half.
It was a hobby – going biking on weekends with friends – that became a career goal, then enrolling in the Apex Racing academy to win a few championships, then TVS finds out. after winning both the road race and the rally in 2017, it was an arduous but fruitful journey for the 26-year-old from Bangalore.
Pissay, who switched completely to rallies, started with road racing, which is a closed-course race and whoever crosses the finish line first wins the race. Rallies, on the other hand, are longer journeys made over more rugged terrain such as dunes, forests, etc.
Pissay arrived at the national championship after her first competition at the Himalayan Rally at the beginning of October where she left with three pieces of silverware, P1 in the female class, P2 in group A up to the 450CC class and P5 in the general.
So, in an exclusive conversation, Aishwarya Pissay spoke to DNA about how his motorcycle racing journey started, organizing funds early, dating with injuries, diet and the importance of mental health and much more. Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Motorcycle racing is not yet a very recognized sport in India, how did it start for you and what made you decide to start professionally?
Yes, motorsport in India is still not one of the most recognized sports. And even when I wanted to get down to it, I started riding motorcycles as a weekend hobby with my friends. And for a while, I started training for racing as well at a racing school called Apex racing Academy, which specializes in road racing.
And I was, I was also advised initially, no, I should just do this as a hobby because nobody saw anybody make a career out of it. A very small number of people [are] do it professionally full time. So at the time, I didn’t let any of this bother me. My goal was to train and start running. I raced as a privateer the first two years with the Apex Racing Academy. And I started to win a few championships. And then in 2017, I signed with TVS racing, which made my passion my job. So technically, yeah, that’s how I got into the race. And that’s how it became my career.
The reaction of the family? An apprehension?
Yes, they were definitely [apprehensive], like, you know, even at first they probably wanted me to have a secure job, to finish my studies and stuff, but it was mostly my grandparents. But my mother has always supported me. You know, she, she never really stopped me. And I think having that home support is a very important thing. And I think I had that.
Doubts in you – Can I do it or not?
Was that never what I can do? I wanted, it was always because I want to do this, I might not have the funds to do it. Now. How can I find a way to achieve this? And definitely, that would be more of a question than having supposed myself to doubt whether I would get there or not.
How did TVS come into the picture? And how did it all happen?
TVS was constantly looking for good athletes. So when I was racing on the road they would follow my course because I also won one of their one day TVS cups, with which I also started doing offroad rallies, this towards which I have completely gone through at this point. point. But in 2016-2017 I was doing both road races and rallies together and I was very successful. In 2017, I won the National Road Racing and Rally Championship Championships together in the same year. And it got their attention and then you know, after which I started running for them from the next year.
How difficult has it been to recover from the wrist injury suffered in Jordan at the start of the year, now that you are in the middle of a fantastic race?
This year I took part in the World Cup again, where I finished third. And then the second round was in Jordan. This is where my accident happened. And after the accident, I had about four surgeries – before starting rehabilitation – two in Jordan and two when I was back in India. And I started my detox at a place called Guerlain Fitness Studio.
The doctor that I suggested to start recovery three days after my operation, so I started my rehabilitation and then slowly, I worked on other muscles and my stamina and so forth. And in about three months the bone mark healed, I was allowed to ride, and then I started to ride. So for me, being at the Himalayan rally was a training run so I could work my wrist and everything. And, you know, see where they stand. And I think we did a pretty good job in terms of the overall finish, so it’s the best finish a girl has ever had.
In an off-road rally, and I also finished second with the boys. And first among women, we have succeeded. And I went to this race with my TVS bike on my own, my team was not there to support me. So my trainer was helping me maintain the bike. It was more me who did it individually.
And then come from there from the Himalayas to a really hot place and it’s Hampi and ride a whole different bike. It was really a very hot weekend. But I think we did very well. And we finished 22nd overall. And we finished first in the women, there were about 83 runners. And as, in the sense that I finished 22nd overall, it was a good end for a team. So a great experience of jumping from bike to bike. Because in the Himalayas, I rode in 450. At the INRC, I ride in 200. So it’s two different bikes.
How do you view injuries these days – in part or in part or they bring frustration – because you’ve probably won it all?
I mean, honestly, this accident just made me stronger. Looking at my performance, it’s much better than it was last year. And seeing as, you know, the Himalayan Rally is one of the toughest races in India. If I could do that, and my hands were holding on well, and if I was doing so well, that means it made me stronger. OK. And I look at it from the same point of view. You know, it makes me stronger and stronger every time.
So, the time of being depressed and frustrated to say it’s true for everyone. I’m human too, but you know, but don’t let that, or I mean, pull me down or deter me from following my goals. And having the right ecosystem around me, my coaches, my fitness trainer – all of these people have been very essential to my recovery. And I think they’re all by my side and applauding, and my TVS Racing manager has probably helped me come back stronger.
Does being “the first Indian to win a world title in motorsport or motorcycle” pressure to wait or have you made peace with that for two years?
What I accomplished is two years ago, I can’t let it stress me out or dictate my performance or my mental state in a race. So me and my coach, we’re working on everything you know, what’s gone is gone. Now is the time to do more. And it is in this state of mind that I enter. And I look for better performance in every race, better results, and that’s the goal, no matter what I’ve accomplished. It’s what I can do today in this race that matters the most.
Is there all the physical strength? And what is the role of food?
It’s a holistic approach that I try to do with things because, you know, it’s not just about being strong physically. And you know, refueling particularly well has been one of the most crucial things I’ve worked on. Also, in this sport people don’t talk about the mental side of things. But I have a mental coach that I work with, because as much as it is important to be physically strong, it is also important to be able to work on our mental health.
So for me it’s a holistic approach all year round, it’s not something different than I do right before a race. But it’s the daily effort I put into my training that, you know, translates into my running performance.