News and Tribune

October 2, 2012

BEAM: To dream the not-so-impossible dream

Local columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Gaurav Sharma wants to be an Olympian. So what, you might say. Quite a few people have similar aspirations.

The thing about Sharma is that he actually has the talent to make this dream a reality. In his birthplace of New Delhi, the now 24-year-old has won numerous national judo competitions. He even came in third in his weight class at the 2004 International Sports Games of Asia, a junior sport competition that encompasses the whole continent.

What would you expect from a guy whose name means pride and respect in Sanskrit?

In a quest to better his judo skills, Sharma left India and studied in Japan. Three years ago, he came to the United States in search of a coach who had been trained in the Japanese style of the sport. After living in California and New York for a bit, he moved to Louisville where he resides to this day.

“We never know what’s going to happen in that game. It’s all about timing and technique,” Sharma said.  

When you’re running down a dream, life sometimes forces you to take a longer, winding road with even a few bumps along the route. Since arriving in the United States, Sharma’s pursuit of becoming an Olympian has taken a detour. At a church function, he soon found love and married his wife Janetta. They now have a 2-year-old son named Jai.

A family adds new demands, both on your time and finances. Sharma needed to work to make ends meet and to provide for his new family. Olympic training would be put on hold. But luckily, he found a job he was not only good at, but that he enjoyed.

As a personal trainer, first at the YMCA in New Albany and now at the Floyds Knobs branch of Anytime Fitness, Sharma has found a new ambition. He still wants to compete in judo at the Olympics, but now he also has another goal; one that involves teaching others about healthy living.

When you meet Sharma, you don’t forget him. His calm voice and demeanor leave an impression. So do his healthy habits.

Sharma doesn’t eat processed food and avoids bread products. He only consumes meat that can either “swim or fly” since they’re easier to digest and tend to be more lean. He also normally works out 45 minutes a day, five days a week. He said if you exercise too much, your cortisol, or stress hormones, will excessively increase. Sharma, who has been studying yoga for a decade, does however continue to stretch even on his rest days.  

“Fitness is not just about bodybuilding. It’s a spirit, mind and body thing. If our body is good, our mind is going to feel better,” he said. “If our body is healthy from the inside we’re going to feel better on the outside.”

After talking with Sharma, his words on nutrition sure did pack a punch. For the second time this month, I’ve encountered someone who advocates a simpler, less-processed diet than the fast food fare I normally consume, so I thought I better listen.

Instead of going to Taco Bell for lunch that day, I grabbed some fresh fruit and veggies from the store. Convincing me to give up a bean burrito with sour cream is a win for anybody.

Sharma also wants to change the eating habits of his friends and even his fellow worshipers at the Portland Avenue Church of Christ. He’s trying to get them to substitute the usual Sunday morning doughnuts with healthier food. He said it takes a lot of dedication and determination to tell people they need to eat better.

And what about his Olympic dream? Right now, Sharma has delayed his judo training. He doesn’t want to leave the clients that he instructs nor can he afford to take off work to prepare properly. However, if, or should I say when, he achieves his goal he hopes to compete for the United States’ Judo team. Just last year, he won a competition in Kentucky.

“This is my dream goal, to participate in the Olympics,” Sharma said. “I can’t work 10 hours a day and do judo at the same time. Maybe if I win the lottery or something then I can train for judo again.”

Sometimes the bumps along the road of life make us take an alternative route. Here’s hoping Sharma’s detour eventually leads him back to the path of Olympic training.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at or visit her blog at