R. Umadevi is one of India’s finest cue sport player. From being a typist to World Billiards Champion her inspirational story is a motivation for one and all. 

In the competitive world of sports, it’s all about how early you identify your talent and then put in years of hard work to carve a niche for yourself. It’s very rare to hear of a sportsperson starting their journey in the latter part of their lives and then going on to become a World Champion in their discipline. Well, Revanna Umadevi Nagraj or R. Umadevi did just that and she is, figuratively and quite literally, a class apart.

She achieved the feat. in a game very few take-up in this country, Billiards.

The Journey of R. Umadevi

In our late 30’s, when most of us are settling down in life and finally getting into our grooves; Umadevi was busy exploring new and exciting possibilities in her life. Born on 11 February 1965 in a small village in Karnataka, R. Umadevi had a very average life. She completed her SSLC and training in typewriting, and started working as a typist for the horticulture department in 1989 at Lalbagh in Bangalore. Like several of the Government officials working with her, R. Umadevi liked to play Table Tennis too. Hence, she would often visit the Karnataka Government Secretariat (KGS) club to play. Being of a very shy and reserved demeanour, Umadevi used to patiently wait for her turn amidst a bunch of her colleagues. It was at this time, in 1995, when the secretary of the club Krishna Kumar introduced her to the billiards room and thrust a cue in her hands; the rest, as they say, is history. Umadevi’s career that started out of curiosity, transformed into a journey of self belief, hard work and sheer perseverance.

R. Umadevi – Taking One Step at a Time

R Umadevi playing billiards
R. Umadevi World Billiards Champion

Umadevi worked hard and started practicing rigorously after office hours. Slowly, she started gaining confidence and reached the number three position on the state snooker ranking.

This got her a membership to the Karnataka State Billiards Association and after looking at her efforts; her department transferred her to Cubbon Park which was closer to her club.

In a sport which was predominated by men, R. Umadevi was often ridiculed for her efforts and it was then that she decided to gain respect for herself through her game. She started training with Arjuna awardee cueist, Aravind Savur and was later trained by Jairaj who was the former coach of the national billiards team.

Her dedication and hard work finally bore fruit when she won her first national championship in Ahemdabad (2002). She later went on to become a three time Indian National Billards Champion. Even after winning the national championships, Umadevi got no publicity. She got a lot of opportunities to play abroad but could not afford to go on tours due to financial restrictions. Her husband and father-in-law were always supportive of her campaign, arranged money for her trips and urged her to go.

R. Umadevi – At the top of the World

R. Umadevi participated in the World Championships in China (2003), Netherlands (2004) and Syria (2011) where she finished third. The high point in her career was the London Billiards & Snooker Championship in Cambridge. As a result of 3 months of hard practice, Umadevi went on to win the Championships Snooker crown.

Two days later, she defeated World No 13 Eva Palmius and eight times World Champion Emma Bonney to clinch the title and become the World Champion at the age of 47.

“It’s the result of some hard work and dedication and I will continue to put in the sincere and serious effort, day in a day out”, Umadevi said after winning the Championship. The journey of the shy and reserved senior typist to a World Champion was nothing short of incredible. She won the Arjuna Award in 2009 for her contribution to Billiards. In our country, women have always been hesitant in coming out of their shells and creating a name for themselves. In such a society, R. Umadevi was a trailblazer. She never let the age factor hinder her progress and translated her efforts into becoming an inspiration for several women. Throughout her journey, she believed in herself and went on to prove that age, in reality, is just a number.

Fact Sheet R. Umadevi

  • Arjuna awardee cueist Aravind Savur became her mentor at the KGS Club.
  • Later she was trained by Jairaj, former coach of the national billiards team.
  • It was the sheer result of her firm resolution and hard work that she won her first national championship in Ahmedabad (2002).
  • She participated in the World championships in China (2003), Netherlands (2004) and Syria (2011).
  • She won the women’s billiards and snooker world championship at Cambridge in the UK in 2012, and reached the pinnacle of the game.

The humble senior typist working with the state horticulture department made it to the top, beating seven competitors from various countries.

Today when women are getting recognition in every field of life including their corporate jobs, dance, music, cinema, etc. Choosing sports as a career just requires extra effort, hard work and dedication. R. Umadevi is a prime example for many such women who want to pursue their dreams of becoming a sports star but are hesitant due to their family responsibilities and age. A lesson we have learnt from R. Umadevi is that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.

Nikhil is a man of many words. A reader and a writer, he'll read just about anything to satiate the urge. His journey into the literary world started as a young journalist who worked for The Times of India during his school days. Now, you'll usually find him in the corner of a room; engrossed in a book, typing furiously or simply daydreaming at the best.

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