MEET – ‘Mr. India’ (Federation Cup champion) M. Kodandaraman
Some champions are applauded for their freakish mass. Some are admired for their beautiful frame and “nice lines.” And then there are some, who display a perfect blend of factors that makes them a great champion – “mass with class.”
The most popular champion on the international arena, who won such an admiration, was the legendary Lee Labrada of the United States.
As regards India, there have been several great champions, who have won titles with their blend of mass and class. The up-and-coming young star from Tamil Nadu, M. Kodandaraman [known as Vinod among friends and relatives], is now on that right track to entering the league of such classic champions.
I have had the privilege of interacting with this smiling young man for a few years now and been left speechless by the manner in which he has sculpted that amazing physique of his.
Wow, what a change – not only in his physique but also the way he talks. He is now fun to interact with and not that shy kid of 2007.
I also remember how cooperative he was during a photo shoot done exclusively for our ace photographer P. Sowmya. Though he was just starting his contest prep and not at his best, Kodandaraman was so accommodative and patient even when the session stretched to more than three hours.
I take pride in interacting with this young man, who, I’m sure, is soon going to win several medals at the national and Asian levels.
Team Masters: Welcome Kodandaraman, I am too happy that you agreed to come to my place for this interaction. I could have as well come to your house. However, I am glad that you came here.
Kodandaraman: Oh sir, please don’t make me feel embarrassed. Coming to your place is no big deal. All of us [champions] know your interest in the sport.
Team Masters: I know about your father and your background. For the sake of this interaction, I request you to tell me about that and how your journey as a champion began.
Kodandaraman: I was born on September 25. My father Manivendan is a former body building and national power lifting champion. He works in Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai. I have an elder brother, Manimaran; an elder sister who is married; and a younger sister, who is studying in Class IX.
Team Masters: When did you start training and who was your first hero?
Kodandaraman: I started training in 2006. My father was my hero. I joined Youngsters Gym in Villivakkam, Chennai, run by T.K. Gurunathan.
Team Masters: How did your body respond to training? Were you a good gainer?
Kodandaraman: The response was pretty good. After 6 or 7 months of initial training, I won my first competition as a student, conducted by the University of Madras.
Team Masters: Oops, sorry, I forgot to ask about your academic qualification.
Kodandaraman: [With a smile] I have completed B. Sc. microbiology in Vel’s college.
Team Masters: Hey, that’s great. I am happy that educated youth are entering our sport of bodybuilding. OK, did anyone from bodybuilding association see you win your first show?
Kodandaraman: TABBA general secretary M. Arasu and Gurunathan sir were there. Their encouraging words made me train seriously. My next competition was an inter-district championship held in 2007. I entered the 60 kg class and won.
Team Masters: Which was your first big competition?
Kodandaraman: The Federation Cup held in Kolkata, where I did not place. However, it was a great experience seeing K. Balamurugan of ICF and other seniors compete in their top shape. After this meet, I took a long gap as I had to improve a lot before competing again. Gurunathan sir sent me to Gold Gym, Alandur, to train under the guidance of Arasu.
Team Masters: Yes, I know that. I believe Balamurugan is a very helpful person and has helped so many up-and-coming champions. Did he help you as well?
Kodandaraman: Of course, Bala ‘anna’ has been so helpful. I worked very hard, harder than even before, and won my next competition.
Team Masters: When was it?
Kodandaraman: It was Junior Mr. Tamil Nadu conducted in January 2008 at Gobi. I won the 60 kg class. My next show was the All-India University Championship held the same year at Punjab. However, I couldn’t win a medal. A little after that I entered the Junior Mr. India 2008 held at Orissa. I won silver.
Team Masters: Impressive.
Kodandaraman: I qualified for Senior Mr. India being held at Meerut and competed in that prestigious show as well. I was thrilled to finish fourth.
Team Masters: Who were the top three finishers and what is your opinion about the outcome of the contest?
Kodandaraman: I don’t exactly remember sir, there were very seniors like S. Kumarananthan (first) and others. The judging was very fair.
Team Masters: That is the mark of a true champion. I am happy that you are fair and respectful to seniors. Yes, please continue…
Kodandaraman: Then I competed in 2008 Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Coimbatore that year…
Team Masters: Ah, I remember that very well. Sorry to tell you brother, though you won your class and the overall in a very close contest against K. Gopinath, I still felt you were not at your best that day.
Kodandaraman: I could not have been better sir, I was sick. I had diarrhoea and was losing muscle and condition. It was hell competing that day and I somehow pulled it through. However, it earned me a qualification for the Senior Mr. India, which was being conducted at Aurangabad in June.
Team Masters: Was your health better by that time?
Kodandaraman: Slightly better. But, I competed in 55 kg class that time and won silver.
Team Masters: Yes, but you lost gold only to a class champion like Suryanarayanan of ICF. A very fair decision, I would say. I also remember that nationals for another reason. It was Murtuza Rasheed’s (of Team Masters) first Senior Mr. India contest as well, where he placed 8th against seniors and freaks in the 65 kg class. He told me how tired you were on the train and how much your father helped you in carb loading and stuff like that.
Kodandaraman: Oh sir, I would be nowhere without my father’s help. I owe him everything.
Team Masters: You also won Federation Cup in 2009, right?
Kodandaraman: Yes, I was at my best shape in that contest held at Thrissur. I won my class while K. Venkatesh and Gopi won in their categories.
Team Masters: Ah, and you then entered a Mr. Chennai in March 2009 conducted by Arul of A.R. Fitness, at ICF, right? Those shows are for ‘smaller guys’ like us brother, you literally ate up your competitors and won the overall.
Kodandaraman: (Laughs) Sir, it was just the ‘josh’ of competing and getting better. I then won the Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruvallur later that month.
Team Masters: God, how can I forget that show! It had champions like you, Haribabu, Ponmudy, Senguttuvan, Murthy, Udayakumar, Harikrishnan, Bala, Arumugam, Jayaprakash, Lakshmipathy, Gopi, Ranjith Kumar, Sathish Kumar and Jayakumar fighting for the title. It was a jam-packed muscle extravaganza!
Kodandaraman: Due to unavoidable circumstances, I could not participate in Senior Mr. India held that year in Kolkata. My next contest was JKR Classic Mr. Tamil Nadu held in October, which I did in for fun. I was not fully ready and placed third in the 75 kg class. I came to top form and entered the Amateur Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruchi in January 2010. I won my class and Manikandan of Chennai won the overall title.
Team Masters: You really were at your all-time best for the inter-district championship conducted by my good friend Mohan Kumar of Yuva Fitness at Nehru indoor stadium in February 2010. You were really pushing Manikandan very hard for the overall title that night. And, you then got a job in ICF, right?
Kodandaraman: After a lot of hard work, I would like to add. Life is full of struggles. And, then I participated in my first Inter-Railway Bodybuilding Championship that year.
Team Masters: I was told that you could not enter your usual 60 kg class and had to settle for a bronze medal in 65 kg, isn’t it?
Kodandaraman: Yes, unfortunately…
Team Masters: Oh, don’t let it bother you Kodandaraman, you have a lot more big shows to win.
Kodandaraman: I won’t let it affect my spirit, sir. I just focus on getting better. I will participate in this year’s (2011) Inter-Railway Bodybuilding Championship, the Senior State and Senior Nationals scheduled to be held at Bangalore.
Team Masters: Murali Vijayakumar of Team Masters recently told me that you are looking freaky. It seems you are all set to vanquish every single competitor, huh?
Kodandaraman: (Blushes) Sir, nothing of that sort. I just think about improving and making my father, Arasu ‘anna’ and Gurunathan sir proud.
Team Masters: That you will, now tell me about your training split.
Kodandaraman: I generally train every muscle group twice a week. I keep making changes now and then.
Team Masters: Are you a big believer in consuming more solid food than supplements?
Kodandaraman: Sort of…but, I drink whey protein isolate immediately after workout. I also use creatine monohydrate and glutamine from reputable companies. Pre-contest season will also see the entry of amino acid supplements. My protein sources for off-season are chicken breast, lean beef and egg whites. While getting ready for a show, I consume only chicken breast and not beef.
Team Masters: How long do you take to get ready for a contest?
Kodandaraman: I never get fat in the off-season. So, I can step on stage in 45 days. I need 12 weeks to get to my absolute best.
Team Masters: Tell me who is your favourite international body builder?
Kodandaraman: Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler.
Team Masters: And among Indian champions?
Kodandaraman: Vitendar Singh Pawar and Bobby Singh. As regards champions from south, I admire Bala ‘anna’ and Jayaprakash.
Team Masters: Which is the ultimate goal of your competitive career?
Kodandaraman: I will feel content the day I win gold at Mr. Asia.
Team Masters: You have that potential Kodandaraman, it’s just some more years you need to get that dense and mature muscle. I remember Mohan Kumar speaking on stage that you are like Sachin Tendulkar, a champion with class. He could not have said it better. I wish you all success in your carrier and my regards to your father.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar