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Injuries have made me stronger: Aishwarya Pissay | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

When a conversation begins with, “It was an excellent race this time, considering I almost killed myself last year,” you know you’re not talking to someone ordinary. Motorsport champ Aishwarya Pissay is referring to the Raid De Himalaya, which she participated in for the second time in 2017. She is the current National two-wheeler champion in the girls’ category and an integral part of the TVS Racing Rally team. The Bengaluru biker started racing when she was 18 and a budding model. What started as weekend bike trips around her hometown has now become a profession. At 22, she thinks 18 was too late for her to start. “Only in India do we think it’s too early! In other countries, people start at three or four,” she emphasises. 

Rider on the storm

Aishwarya first participated in the second season of MTV Chase The Monsoon, where she rode from the Rann of Kutch to Cherapunji for 24 days. Then came the Saddle Sore — riding 1,000 miles in 24 hours, and Bun burner (2,500 miles in 36 hours). Since she started training in February 2016, she has won Dakshin Dare 2017, Raid De Himalaya 2017, Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) and TVS Apache Ladies One Make Championship 2017. At the Raid De Himalaya 2016, she narrowly escaped a big crash and fell into a ditch with her bike. “This time, I had the best team in India from TVS,” she says.

Physically and mentally fit

Being a good racer is not just about the best gear or team. It entails being fit, physically and mentally. “I’ve had to toughen my skills and riding. Mental fitness is extremely important in motorsport. I had to work on all these aspects, which improved my performance in 2017,” Aishwarya explains. Currently, the racer is preparing for participating in the Desert Storm in March, which, needless to say, will be a starkly different terrain from the mountains of Himalaya or the arid regions of the South. “The challenges are completely different, too. There’s a lot of altitude training that goes into the preparation,” she says. Since she indulges in a lot of off-road and on-road racing, she likes all terrains equally. “I enjoy them because of the adrenaline rush,” she states. 

Only racing

Aishwarya participates in approximately 20 races a year, which has made her put her modelling career on the back burner. “This takes up all my time,” she says. Unsurprisingly, she has suffered injuries. But that’s not stopping her. “The injuries have made me a stronger person. Last year, I broke my collar bone and had to get back to a race track five days after the surgery. It showed me how much I can push myself. I won the championship,” she says. 

More female participation

The champ is aware that racing is a male-dominated arena and for her, encouragement and discouragement both came from men. “I don’t think it’s because of a bias. It’s just a lack of participation from women,” she quickly points out and adds, “But, year after year, the number of women racers is increasing.” Initially, people would tell her it was impossible to have a career in motorsports. “My patience and skill set have held me in good stead. Now, I want to be an inspiration to other girls and tell them that it is possible to have a career in racing,” she says. 

Earlier, motorsport wasn’t recognised as such in India and Aishwarya had to put in her own money in the expensive sport when she started out. She says that with the likes of TVS supporting with training sessions, helping one hone their skill set, it will continue to grow. 

A day in the life of a racer 

For Aishwarya, a typical day starts at 5 am with mental conditioning, followed by functional training at a gym. “Three to four times a week is saddle time — I ride the bike as much as I can,” she says. While people take off on long drives or rides for downtime, since this is de rigueur for her, unwinding entails visualising what she wants to do on the track. “Meditation is the other thing I do to relax,” she adds. As for her friend circle, it’s her coaches, bikes and people around in the motorsport industry. “My life revolves around just this right now,” she says.   

Eyes set on the Dakar

A racer that Aishwarya looks up to is Laia Sanz. She says, “The Dakar Rally is one of the toughest ones in the world and she is one of the top contenders there. It is also a rally that I want to do.” So far, her most memorable moment has been Raid De Himalaya. “It concluded my season for 2017. I had three championships and two rallies. So, I have five titles on my badge,” she says. 

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