The Weekend Leader - Shivani Agarwalla World Kettebell Champion

‘How I became a World Champion with no athletic background during my student days’

Shivani Agarwalla   |  


Vol 13 | Issue 31

Shivani Agarwalla, 39, a practising Chartered Accountant from Kolkata, is the first Indian woman to win a Gold medal in the World Kettebell Championship. With no sporting background during her school and college days, she took up Kettlebell late in life after her son was born.

Encouraged by her coach, she put in hours of practice, juggling her CA practice, managing home and family to emerge as a world champion.

Shivani Agarwalla is three time World Kettebell Champion from Kolkata (Photos: Special Arrangement) 

Among the challenges she faced were, to convince her conservative family to be trained by a male coach, to wear a pair of shorts while training, and to travel for sporting events.

Shivani shares her inspiring journey from being a simple office-to-home chartered accountant to a weight training Kettlebell champion.

“Representing your country at a World Championship and holding the Tricolour high in a foreign land with your national anthem playing in the background gives you goosebumps. Yes, I made history, when I became India’s first woman athlete to win Gold in Kettlebell sports.

And how did I manage that? Magic? Power of vision? Nah! A lot more! Weighing 80 kg for most of my school life, having absolutely no background into fitness, not having participated even in the school march past, a chartered accountant by training, a mother, and a wife and I did it.

Yes, modesty apart, I have come a long long way. You are most satisfied when what you are doing is in complete sync with who you are.

So what helped me in my journey? I would say, the four wheels of life. We all know that a four-wheeler car would not work if one of the wheels went flat. Likewise, our life moves on four wheels: Professional life, Family life, Social life and Personal life.

Shivani is a practising chartered accountant in Kolkata 

I became a chartered accountant at age 22 and got my first job at PriceWater House Coopers and guess what, I didn’t even know how to boot a laptop in those days. My first assignment was an Australian project and I needed to plot the data on Excel. ‘Sorry, Excel?’ What on earth was that?

I used to be teary eyed every evening I got back home. And finally I called it quits without a Plan B. With my supportive parents, I started my practice in Chartered Accountancy and got my first feel of being an entrepreneur.

It took a while for people to comprehend me as a chartered accountant, probably because good looks and qualification of a CA never went hand in hand.

As a Chartered Accountant I have my fair share of glory. I became a national faculty for Indirect Taxation for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and was a permanent invitee to many Chambers of Commerce & Trade bodies. Life was good. Many times in court rooms or board meetings, I would be the only woman attendee.

On the home front, I would say I am a proud mother, a proud wife and a very proud daughter. My parents say I make them proud, my husband says he is indeed very proud and I am invited for numerous parenting workshops as a coach.

Point is my family life is smooth sailing. Well it wasn’t as smooth as I’m making it sound! Long distance relationships have their own set of challenges. For a good part of our married life and even now, my husband’s work keeps him in Assam while I have been in Kolkata. But I am glad my husband and I worked our way, and believe me, we are still learning.

My interaction with my set of friends and extended family make up for a reasonably good social life!

But alas, what is left of my personal life? Tossing up an excellent meal for my family, saving a ton of taxes for my clients or meeting a friend, does this really comprise my personal life? I was lost in wonderland for the longest!

The journey into introspection of my personal life began in 2015 and that too by chance. The birth of my son was a turning point in my life in many ways. It was a sunny Sunday morning and I looked at myself (three months post partum) and wondered, what is my mojo?

Shivani rarely misses her training sessions and it is this discipline that took her to great heights in Kettlebell  

As a child, I was never taught the importance of prioritizing self, self care or love. I chanced upon the concept of being in the one percent elite list – that whatever you do, if you are in the top one percentile, you shall succeed. If you want a better life, you should strive to be in the top one percent of something, perhaps anything really.

By being in the top one percent of something, it shows that you’ve achieved mastery. When you achieve mastery, you gain confidence and that will help you to be successful in many other endeavors. This thought stayed with me.

As I was looking for my mojo, I looked at myself in the mirror; I knew I wanted to lose my post partum weight. My husband pushed me to join a gym, and there I met my mentor, my coach Arnav Sarkar who introduced me to Kettlebells.

I lifted the bells with an idea of losing weight. However, given the stress of bringing up a child in a super nuclear set up and my chartered accountancy practice, I called it quits.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, in my case, I was the village. Luck had it, that one fine Sunday morning in 2016 my coach called up and said, ‘Shivani would you be willing to train at home?’ I was like sure, why not.

We started training and I had no clue something big was awaiting me. We practiced and practiced. I never missed a single session. Subsequently my coach asked me to participate in a national kettlebell event.

More than the event what was making me nervous was to seek permission from my folks. I would need to travel to Delhi for it and I knew I was in for a big struggle.

My mom was furious. She sent a body guard with me - my brother! Later, I participated in the Asian Kettlebell championship in Malaysia. You can imagine what I went through.

Fast forward to November 2018, I represented India in the International Kettlebell World Championship at Uzbekistan and became India’s first woman athlete to get a Gold in Kettlebell Sports.

In 2021 Shivani won her third gold medal in France 

I got my second Gold in Australia in 2019 and then in November 2021, at France I made history yet again by doing a hat trick, winning my third Gold.

The journey to the top wasn’t easy. I faced it all - torn palms, Lavik, my son crying during training sessions, long hours at work, and with a nuclear family set up, lack of support at home.

But as they say, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. When I look back at my journey, it all seems surreal. How did a girl, weighing 80 kg for a good part of her school life, a practicing chartered accountant with no background in fitness manage to ace a sport and make herself and her country proud?

Well, if I was to list down the top of the mind recalls it would be the following:

• Mentorship
• Being consistent & persistent
• Tremendous sense of discipline
• Support of my husband & son

My coach made me realize, ‘What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?’ Someone rightly said, good mentorship can be better than a lifetime of education.

Shivani's success mantra: if you are persistent you will get it, if you are consistent, you shall keep it

Ever since my first Gold I have followed a mantra, ‘if you are persistent you will get it, if you are consistent, you shall keep it.’ Consistent actions create consistent results. Bruce lee once said, ‘Long term consistency trumps short term intensity’. I believe this, lived by this and believe me, it works like magic.

Warren Buffet always says, we don’t have to be smarter than the rest, we have to be more disciplined than the rest. I wasn’t always motivated, and we may all agree, to be motivated always is a tall task. But yes, I learnt to be disciplined. And this sense of discipline got in me a certain mastery over my thoughts. I realized the pain of discipline is way better than the pain of regret.

Some say, behind every successful man, there is a woman. I wouldn’t be over emphasizing when I say, behind many successful women, there may be men! Belonging to an extremely conservative family, it was a significant challenge for me to train with a male coach, to wear a pair of shorts while training, to travel for a sports event.

The one guy who stood rock solid with me was my husband, Mayank. He encouraged me to grow. My son, my center of my existence, told me, ‘Ma get Gold’, and I did!

He was all of three when I left him for my international sports event, his dad was travelling too. He is six today, manages logging on, logging off, doing his homework, submitting it…all on his own! With both parents travelling he knows he doesn’t have much of an option. Being independent is a way of life, not a choice for him.

Shivani with her husband and son

Many ask me, how do I manage, being a home maker, a chartered accountant and a kettlebell athlete. The question always remains, how do I get time. And my answer is always the same, ‘its never about having time, its always about making time’. If its on your list of priorities, you will manage it.

I came to know I had athletic skills only once I was at the ripe age of 35. As a school and college student I had never participated even in march past, forget any track and field event. It took me 35 years to realize I had a certain potential, thanks to my altered perspective to life, thanks to mentorship, thanks to decluttering, and thanks to knowing myself.

I try and keep the four wheels of my life steady, try it, it works! If I can do it, anyone can!

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