Published: 29th January 2020
How India's bodybuilding dreams ride on the ripped shoulders of this Kerala lad
Did you know that the 2019 WFF Pro Mister Asia Pacific is a Malayali? We talk to Chacko Tharakan, who is gearing up to be the next Mister Universe
A laidback Thursday afternoon seemed like the perfect time for an interview, we thought. Both the interviewer and interviewee agreed. However, an hour later, the former realised that she was depriving the latter, Chacko Tharakan, of one of his fortunes — a sound afternoon nap. For the 2019 WFF Pro Mister Asia Pacific, sound sleep doesn't come with ease, thanks to his zero carb diet. But he doesn't complain.
Instead, he's working hard towards his next big stage — Mister Universe 2020 in June in Bangkok. Chacko is excited about it already. At the same time, he finds it unbelievable that he has won his first International title in December 2019. "I took part in the 2019 Mister Universe competition and came tenth. I remember how the Indian team's president came running to me with an Indian flag and asked me to hold it," Chacko recalls. "But then, I thought how wonderful will it be to hold the flag as a winner in an international competition that will be held in India. That pushed me to train for Mister Asia Pacific in Bengaluru. I ended up winning it," he says.
Bodybuilding was not on the cards for this 29-year-old for a long time, even though he would work out quite regularly ever since he was in school. "I never saw myself as Arnold (Schwarzenegger). But, I wanted to represent my country in a sport, either squash or football. However, I never got into a team. I started working out in class XI to get a good physique. One day, my trainer asked me if I'd like to go for a district-level bodybuilding competition. I gave it a shot and ended up winning the Mister Ernakulam title," he says. Later, he went on to win the Mister India title in 2018 and 2019 consecutively.
Ask about the challenges in his journey and the lack of sleep will be the last thing that Chacko will list. "The sport is highly politicised. I was once unhappy with a biased judgment during the Mister Ernakulam competition and penned a Facebook post about it. The organisers were unhappy and asked me to write an apology. When I refused, they didn't let me attend the Indian team selection. Later, I attended the selection, representing Tamil Nadu from a different federation," he says. He also talks about how a strict diet and routine affects an athlete mentally. "The diet has almost no amount of carbohydrates or sugar. This causes a lot of stress and mood swings. After a while, it becomes difficult to talk to people without getting angry," he says.
At the same time, he also shows us the bright side of his life. "My parents are very supportive. They're very proud of me taking part in these competitions and winning them. My father travelled with me to the Mister Asia Pacific venue," he says. "They know how dedicated I am and my achievements have always made them proud," he adds.