Bodybuilder Chitharesh Natesan, one of the three finalists for the Manorama Sports Star 2019, created history when he became the first Indian to win a Mr. Universe (Pro) title in 2019.
The 34-year-old, known as India's own Arnold Schwarzeneger, emerged champion in the 90kg category at the 11th World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship (WBPF) held in the South Korean city of Jeju. The high-profile event was attended by bodybuilders from 38 countries.
He then outclassed as many as nine former world champions in weight categories ranging between 55kg to 110kg to take home the Mr. Universe (Pro) title.
A native of Vaduthala in Kochi, Chitharesh had earlier won the Mr. Asia title at the Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in Indonesia.
From being advised amputation of the leg by doctors to winning the Mr Universe title, his journey as a bodybuilder is an inspiration. Son of farmer couple Natesan and Nirmala, Chitharesh's passion was hockey during his college days. He complted his BA in History from the Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, and then did a course in physical education from the Lakshmibai National Physical Education College (LNCPE) in Thiruvananthapuram.
Upon graduation, he served as a personal trainer at the Rejuvenation Fitness Group in Delhi which prompted him to take up bodybuilding seriously. His sporting career almost went upside down when an injury to his leg aggravated and developed into a major infection. He spent several months in a hospital and the doctors there said amputation was inevitable since the condition of his leg had worsened. However, Chitharesh was not ready to give up. He overcame the career-threatening injury and resumed training in 2014, focusing on professional bodybuilding under coach M P Sagar, who was his batchmate at the LNCPE.
He won Mr Delhi and Mr India titles in consecutive years between 2015 and 2018 and then became Mr Asia and Mr World.
For the champion bodybuilder, who is 5 ft 7 inches tall, spending long hours in the gym has been an everyday ritual since he turned 21.
Though Chitharesh had to struggle a lot to find funds to prepare for competitions, he flexed his muscles and took on every challenge with total confidence. His wife Nasiba Nurtaeva, who hails from Uzbekistan, is his biggest source of strength.
Pick your choice
With a total prize money of Rs 6 lakh, Manorama Sports Star 2019 - Kerala’s biggest sports award instituted by Malayala Manorama in association with Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Ltd - will recognise and honour individuals for their extraordinary achievements.
The panel comprising Olympian T C Yohannan, writer and sports analyst N S Madhavan, and former cricketer and coach P Balachandran assessed the performances of Keralite sportspersons in different disciplines during 2019 at national and international levels before finalising the list.
The other two who made it to the final phase are chess prodigy Nihal Sarin and special cricketer Anish P Rajan.
The winner will be determined via online/SMS voting.
Format to vote
A. Nihal Sarin: MSA<space>A
B. Anish P Rajan: MSA<space>B
C. Chitharesh Natesan: MSA<space>C
The SMS should be sent to 56767123 (charges applicable) in the prescribed format. For example, if your pick is the first person on the list, the format should be MSA<space>A.
As many as 10 lucky persons who take part in the selection process will be given away Rs 10,000 each.
For online voting, log on to www.manoramaonline.com/sportsawards