Three days ago, Bharath Pereira created history by becoming the first Indian sport climber to qualify for the third edition of the Youth Olympics to be held in Argentina in October next year. Only 20 slots are available for competitors from around the world in this event, in which the 17-year-old from Bengaluru, a Class XII student at St Joseph’s College, will participate. The Youth Olympics that started in 2010 are held once in four years and are the junior equivalent of the Olympic Games. This youth event is organised by the International Olympic Committee and sees participation by thousands of sportsmen and women from around the world. But India’s presence here is minimal, with a handful even qualifying to participate in the Games.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian from Bengaluru, Bharath said that he was at first “shocked” and then elated when he came to know of the news. “When my coach, Kerthi Pais told me that I qualified for the Youth Olympics, I was in a state of shock—as I had not expected to make the cut. But gradually shock gave way to elation as the magnitude of the achievement dawned upon me,” he said.

It’s worth mentioning here that Bharath made it to the Youth Olympics after his fine performance in the Asian Youth Championship, held in Singapore in August. “I had a very good showing there, as I got two silver medals. At that point of time, there was not much clarity about my qualification,” Bharat said. Only one person is selected for the Youth Olympics from the Asian meet and in this case Bharat is the only Asian to make the cut.

Bharath’s fascination with sport climbing started from the age of eight. His tryst with sport climbing happened more by accident than by design. In his own words, “It so happened that I was passing by the Kanteveera Stadium and I happened to see some people who were climbing the stadium walls. After witnessing them for some time, I too wanted to do the same and remember telling my father that I wanted to pursue the sport,” recalled Bharath.

Not long after, Bharath was trying out sport climbing, which is an offshoot of mountaineering. It’s a really tough sport as one has to climb a near vertical wall and the degree of difficulty varies from climb to climb. Also sport climbing consists of three distinctive categories. These are lead, speed and bouldering and a climber’s points are added to what he scores across these three categories.

The first signs that Bharath would excel in the sport came in his very first competition at the international level. As a 10-year-old, Bharath managed to surprise all by clinching three bronze medals in the Asian Youth Championships in Jakarta in 2010. That strengthened Bharath’s resolve. “From that moment onwards I knew I had it in me to shine in this sport. After all, it was my first international competition and I ended up winning three bronze medals,” he added.

Bharath had many words of praise for his coach Kerthi Pais. “I will attribute a lot of my success to my coach Kerthi. He was always there for me and there were many times when I even thought of quitting the sport. But he has been a rock of support and backed me when things were bad. I owe a lot to him,” said Bharath.

Bharath’s father, Subhash Pereira said he was confident that his son would do well at the Youth Olympics: “I know Bharath has the fire in his belly to do well at major competitions. He will give his best and I hope that he is able to win India’s first medal in these Games.”

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