Relatively new to the sport, Poonam Rana Kholiya has made a name for herself by winning podium spots in most of the Cross Country races she’s raced in. Poonam is the current Indian National MTB Cross Country champion. Freeridermag caught up with the Uttarakhand native in this exclusive interview.
Name: Poonam Rana Kholiya
Hometown: Haldwani, Uttarakhand.
Current bike: Trek Super Fly 6
FRMTB: How did you get into mountain biking?
Poonam: In 2016 I started mountain biking, my first ride (expedition) was from Nabhidhang to Delhi, a 1006km ride with team SSB.
FRMTB: Who inspires you the most?
Poonam: I’m inspired by my brother Kamlesh Rana.
FRMTB: You recently landed a podium spot at the ‘2019 MTB Kerala’ international cross-country race, how was the track and the competition?
Poonam: The track was exciting and fun. It was a good experience racing with the international riders, this was my first one! The competition was quit tough, as there were elite racers from all over the world.
FRMTB: Did you ever imagine that you’d win the Indian National Cross Country MTB Champion title?
Poonam: Yes, I was confident about it. By the time of National champs, I’d raced a few events and seen a lot of other Indian elite racers and felt I could do it!
FRMTB: What do your parents and husband think about your involvement in sports?
Poonam: My husband and parents are always supportive. They feel I’ll progress further in this sport!
FRMTB: What were the challenges you had to face to chase your XC racing dream?
Poonam: I’ve had to go through intense training and had to take more risks to accomplish my dream.
FRMTB: How do you manage your training along with your studies?
Poonam: I dedicate more time towards cycling than other work at home.
My routine looks a bit like this – Wake up at 5am. Set out for my training by 5.30am and return home by 8.30am. Followed by working at home, as I’m married and have to serve my family! At 5pm, I head out for for another hour or two of training. Once back, it is time for me to study, for an hour.
FRMTB: What’s your take on Indian women reigning the sports scene these days? What do you think is required to improve female participation in sports, especially in India?
Poonam: That’s right, many girls in India are coming up in sports. But due to financial constraints and a low motivational atmosphere of our society, many girls don’t like to pursue sports, like boys do. I feel we should support, encourage and promote the women athletes of India, as there are a lot of girls here with big dreams and talent.
FRMTB: If not mountain biking, what would you be following?
Poonam: I’d be doing road cycling if I was not into mountain biking. I anyway do a lot of road cycling, it is fun!
FRMTB: When not on the trails, what do you do off the bike?
Poonam: I like running! I thoroughly enjoy it and it helps build my stamina.
FRMTB: What is your message for the young Indian women who wish to, but do not pursue sports?
Poonam: My message for women in India is, follow your dreams and never give up on your ambitions! Dedication will bring results.