In this century India is becoming one of the most influential countries in the world, with the biggest population and a thriving economy. They already have produced some of the finest memory athletes in the world. Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda is holding up the torch for memory sports in India and for inspiring women worldwide with her amazing achievements at memory competitions. We spoke with her about her ambitions, her training and her vision for the future of the sport.
Memory-Sports: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Ah, this is one complicated question that I will never know how to answer. I’m 21, I’ve been representing India in memory sports since 2010. I am a psychology graduate and I’m pursuing fashion designing right now. I have been trained in arts for 8 years and I was a professional chess player before I got into memory sports.
Memory-Sports: How did you get to memory sports?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Like I said, I was a chess player and my mom thought learning mnemonics would help me learn chess openings faster and better. Later I happened to meet Dr. Kranthi and he taught me about the events and the world of memory sports. We never looked back. It’s really fun and challenging.
Memory-Sports: Do you think it would be helpful to teach memory techniques at schools and universities and how would you imagine that?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Absolutely! If we can teach the students how to learn something faster and more efficient, it will help them save a lot of time and energy that they can put into other activities and hobbies. I think it would make a huge difference if mnemonics are introduced to students right from the childhood so that it becomes a habit! And I can’t think of better ways to have fun while studying!
I think it would make a huge difference if mnemonics are introduced to students right from the childhood so that it becomes a habit!Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda
Memory-Sports: How often do you train your memory?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: It depends on my schedule. I try to train as much as I can from a few months before a major championship. I’m training my systems and journeys pretty much every week and a few sprints now and then. I’m trying to learn new languages so I’m splitting my time between these two.
Memory-Sports: How has your life changed since you do memory sports?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Oh, it has become movie like! More fun and creative!! Meeting and getting to know new people is more interesting and entertaining. I have definitely become more efficient and learning something new isn’t scary. I have made so many wonderful friends and travelled since I was 15 so it gave me the exposure that most people of my age don’t always get.
Memory-Sports: What relevance do memory techniques and memory sports have in India?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Not much. In fact, people hardly know that there exists a thing like this. There’s a long long way to go. But thankfully, it’s getting better and we already have a few athletes who are winning medals at the international championships.
Memory-Sports: What difference do you see in the public awareness of the sport compared to western countries?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Since there is not much awareness about the sport, I see a lot of Self acclaimed trainers fooling people that they have won several championships to make a business. But i guess it’s the same everywhere.
Memory-Sports: What fascinates you about competing, besides the events themselves?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Just being able to beat my own personal bests. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that you’re getting better each time. I couldn’t imagine memorizing a deck of cards under 5 minutes when I started out and I’m close to sub 30 seconds now. I feel there’s still a lot of room for improvement, so it’s addictive!
I couldn’t imagine memorizing a deck of cards under 5 minutes when I started out and I’m close to sub 30 seconds now. I feel there’s still a lot of room for improvement, so it’s addictive!Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda
Memory-Sports: There are mostly men competing at memory championships. Do you have an idea why? And how can we attract more women?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: No, but it’s changing really fast. Women are giving a tough competition in most of the major championships. And its quite opposite in India. We have a lot of girls competing.
Memory-Sports: What is your favorite memory from the sport?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: London 2012. I have won the Names & Faces gold in Junior as well as Open categories for the second year in a row. Many people called it luck when I first won it in 2011 so it felt great to reassure myself that it wasn’t only luck.
Memory-Sports: How do you see the current situation of memory sports?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: It’s saddening. Just when the sport is getting its share of popularity and attention that it deserves, this situation is taking away years of progress. But since the damage is already done and the best we can do right now is focus on making changes for good. I’m really looking forward to see and participate in making it happen.
Memory-Sports: What is your ideal vision for the future of memory sports?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: A well organized, transparent and democratic council that prioritizes the welfare and growth of the sport above making profits, personal egos and other petty reasons. There are many athletes from around the world who are putting in a lot of time, effort and money already. I think all we need is a proper platform and a governing body with all the digitalization and new formats being introduced.
Memory-Sports: We know that you are thinking about writing a book. What is the story behind that idea?
Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda: Yes, I have been wanting to write a book of tried and tested methods and techniques of various aspects for efficient learning in one book. There are just so many books on different techniques it’s a bit overwhelming. I’d prefer the best of them in one single handbook! I’m working on it.
Memory-Sports: Thank you for your time.