MEET – Mr. India runner-up K. Balamurugan
In the sport of body building, we have competitors who scale great heights, and, accomplished competitors who keep helping up-and-coming champions. Then there are a select few who keep winning titles themselves yet squeeze out time to whip-up others into top shape simultaneously. And, if such persons do it without clamouring for publicity, they deserve all the respect in the world.
Nobody else but K. Balamurugan of ICF fits into that category. He is among the younger crop of Tamil Nadu bodybuilders, but a person who has helped so many competitors without telling others that he was actually the “guy behind their success.”
Personally, I have observed Bala as a competitor and heard a lot of champions say how “Bala anna” helped them to win titles. I take pride in writing about him and telling all my readers that Bala is one of my best friends.
Team Masters: I am personally very eager to learn more about you Bala…the more I hear about how you help competitors get ready, the more curious I get. It’s just unbelievable that a person like you is so down to earth!
Bala: (Blushes) Oh sir please, I just am doing whatever little I can and that’s it.
Team Masters: Your words speak about your nature Bala, you are a great guy… Well, so here we go again…please tell me how your incredible journey as a competitor began.
Bala: I was born on April 18, 1985 in Vadalur. My father is called V. Kandan and my mother, Jayakodi. I have two elder sisters and a younger brother. I started training in 2001.
Team Masters: Who is your first guru? I know you are very strong in legs and squat with an awesome heavy weight. Were you strong in all muscles right from the beginning? And were you an easy gainer?
Bala: My first guru was a gentleman called Jothiramalingam. I played a lot of cricket and used to be wicket-keeper. I started weight training to gain strength. I was strong in the legs right from the beginning.
Team Masters: Which was your first contest and what did you place?
Bala: My first contest was a local show called Mr. Guru Classic in 2001. I entered it just two months after I started training. I was in 55 kg category. Looking back, I now feel I knew nothing about diet or contest preparation at that point of time. Needless to say, I got eliminated in Round 1 (laughs).
Team Masters: Oh, so when was your next contest?
Bala: It was in 2002. I entered the same contest in 60 kg class and won.
Team Masters: When did you come to Chennai?
Bala: Shortly after my first victory. Sivakumar of Western Railways, who was living on the next street from ours, was the one who brought me to Chennai. I met Mr. India M. Arasu, who gave me a job at Gold Gym, Alandur. I stayed there and learnt a lot from Arasu.
Team Masters: I am curious to learn how you learnt so much that you are able to help so many competitors.
Bala: (Blushes) A lot of competitors used to come to Arasu ‘anna’ for guidance. Whenever he guided some member at the gym for fat loss or a champion for contest preparation, he told me to remain by his side. I learnt a lot observing him. Arasu ‘anna’ also used to give me a lot of books and magazines on body building and fitness. I have completed Standard X in school and could read all those well. So, help came in all these ways.
Team Masters: And you met your best buddy V. Jayaprakash (3-time Mr. India) at Gold Gym, right?
Bala: Yes sir. We hit it off right from day one. My next contest was Mr. Kanchi 2004. It was a very unscheduled show for me. I was told to compete in it all of a sudden and had no time to diet…It was just one day after a festival. I entered it and placed fourth.
Team Masters: Wow, that means you should have been reasonably lean. Please continue…
Bala: My next contest was Mr. Tamil Nadu 2004, which was held at Ambedkar Arangam, ICF, Ayanavaram. I was second and Velmurugan of Tiruvallur was first.
Team Masters: Oh yeah. Murtuza and I were there that day to watch that show. We can never forget that contest.
Bala: The fight was close…I improved dramatically by the next week and beat Velu at Junior State meet held in Hosur. This was my first State title. But, I beat him after a lot of comparisons. The judges kept comparing us a lot of times. The thing went on for about 15 to 20 minutes!
Team Masters: Awesome man… that you two had the endurance to keep posing that many times is unbelievable. Ok, when was your next contest?
Bala: I won Junior Mr. South India in 2005. However, I did not get selection for Junior Mr. India 2005 and was forced to travel in an unreserved compartment for the event. But, I finished fourth and made our State and my friends proud. I also did an inter-district meet in 65 kg class and won.
Team Masters: And then you also did the Senior Mr. India 2005 held at Nehru indoor stadium in Chennai, right? I clearly remember you looking really good and finishing fourth in 60 kg class.
Bala: Oh, that was a great experience getting ready for that show sir. Arasu ‘anna,’ Jayaprakash and I used to go out together for walking. We did it together for three days to reduce body weight and enter our categories. After the Nationals came a Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu, which I won. Unfortunately, I fell ill after that and took a break from training. I came back in top form for 2006 Junior Mr. India in Bangalore and won silver.
Team Masters: Then you got a job in ICF?
Bala: No sir, I applied for a job in Western Railways, went for a selection, but couldn’t get a placement! I have no idea whatsoever as to what happened to the results of the selection!!! I didn’t let anything affect my spirit. I did another Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Madurantakam and won again. I also entered 2006 Federation Cup Mr. India held at Kolkata. Daljit Singh of Punjab was first and I was second. However, the judges called for a lot of comparisons and it told me that I pushed him hard. I participated in a State meet held at Coimbatore in 2007 and won again. I then applied for job in ICF and got it. I joined service as a technician on February 15, 2007. Three days after that, I entered the inter-railways competition and finished second. S. Kumarananthan was first. I then participated in another Mr. Tamil Nadu contest and finished second once again behind Kumarananthan. But the biggest disappointment came when I didn’t get selection for Senior Nationals from Railways!
Team Masters: Ouch, that hurts Bala, especially after having proved your worth so many times! OK, please continue…
Bala: I did 2008 Inter-Railways and took second once again behind Kumarananthan. I entered Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Ambur in 70 kg category and won. I participated in Senior Mr. India held at Meerut and placed fourth. I could have finished…well…even third or second, that’s what a lot of persons said. But that’s fine. I moved ahead. I competed in Mr. Tamil Nadu in 2009 at Tiruvallur and won my class and the overall.
Team Masters: Ah, I loved that show Bala. What a line-up!!! And while doing contest coverage, I wrote in my blog that you were worth the overall and it was a great decision. And after that, you went to Senior Mr. India held at Kolkata and won silver, I can’t forget that.
Bala: Yes sir. After having done a lot of shows, I knew my body badly needed a break from dieting and brutal training. So I took a long layoff. I got married on September 14, 2009. My wife is called Sudha. She was a teacher and now housewife.
Team Masters: Was it arranged marriage Bala?
Bala: Very much sir. She is from Vridhdhachalam in Villupuram district.
Team Masters: Alright Bala, you told me earlier that you are interested in cricket. Who is your favourite player?
Bala: Sachin Tendulkar, of course. I still love cricket and watch Test matches too, which a lot of people don’t prefer watching today.
Team Masters: You have helped an awesome lot of competitors. I remember so many champs telling me that Bala ‘anna’ told them to do this, do that, eat this or not eat that. That’s really great work Bala. I am even more impressed by the fact that you don’t seem interested in taking credit for the victory of so many champions whom you helped. Ok, tell me a few names whom you cannot forget and persons whom you owe a lot.
Bala: Arasu ‘anna,’ and Jothiramalingam top that list. Then comes my good friend Jayaprakash, who taught me things like carb loading. I also owe a lot to ‘Gold’ Prakash, Arasu’s brother, and my friend Senthilkumaran of ICF. I have a special place in my heart for Arasu’s mother, who took great care of me while I was preparing for my first Senior Nationals in 2005. The affection she showed touched my heart. I was moved.
Team Masters: Nice to hear this Bala. Let’s talk a little about training. Tell me something about your offseason and pre-contest training.
Bala: In the offseason, I workout four days a week, hitting each muscle once. I do cardio 2 or 3 times a week. Pre-contest, I train each muscle twice a week and do cardio every day for an hour.
Team Masters: Who are your favourite champions in our sport?
Bala: I am a fan of Jay Cutler. As regards Indian champions, I like Premchand Degra and Li John. I love Mohammed Abdullah for his posing and Jayaprakash for his hard-working nature.
Team Masters: Tell me about your ambitions Bala.
Bala: I still feel that I have to achieve a lot. My wife is very supportive. Let’s see.
Team Masters: Great to hear that. I am waiting to see you back onstage and move to the next level. I wish you the very best of luck to win the Senior Nationals soon and then the Asia. Good luck.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar