Interview – Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda – An International master of memory

Sri Vyshnavi Yarlagadda (born 06 December 1995 in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh) is the first Indian ever to win a gold medal at the  World Memory Championships. She attained her career best rank no. 2 in October 2013 in Names and Faces event by the World Memory Sports Council. She is the first Indian to set a Junior World Record and also the first Indian Woman to win a Gold medal in World Junior Memory Championships. She achieved this feat by winning the Gold medal in Names and Faces event at the 20th World Memory Championship 2011 on 7 December 2011 in Guangzhou, China.



A graduate in psychology, who is pursuing fashion designing, talks about her journey in memory sports with us in this interview.

What was your kick-start experience with memory sports and what do you like about it?
I was very new to the sport when I first competed at the National Memory Championship in 2010. I stood 6th and I have been addicted to it since then. The thing I like the most about memory sports is that it is so spontaneous and creative, it’s like you are creating another world altogether. Anybody who likes movies and stories will love the sport.

There are 10 events in a Memory championship. At the Indian Memory championships,
We have –
1) 5 min Names and Faces – Memorize as many names and faces as possible.
2) 5 min Binary Digits – Memorize the order of randomized 1’s and 0’s. Ex: 101101010011101
3) Abstract images: Memorize the order of the abstract images in 15 minutes.
4 & 5) Numbers – Memorise the order of random numbers in 5 minutes and 15 minutes. Ex: 156947852364578.
6) Historic Dates –Memorize the year of the event given. Ex: Dog learnt a trick – 1959
7) Words – Memorize a list of random words in order Ex: Chair, socks, kite, telephone etc.
8) Spoken Numbers – Memorize the order of spoken numbers that are recited by a software at the speed of 1 digit per second.
9) 10 min cards – Memorize as many decks of playing cards in order as possible.
10) Speed cards: Memorize a Deck of cards as fast as possible. Whoever memorizes the most, wins the event.

What is your opinion on memory techniques for school and study purposes? Does implementing memory techniques in studies support rote learning?
Memory techniques are definitely not something that support rote learning. These techniques are a way to organize all the data that is being memorised and it makes the recall more accurate and makes studying a lot easier, efficient, faster, and most importantly fun. I believe introducing mnemonics into schools will make our education more functional and it would also help students buy more time for co-curricular activities and other hobbies in a way. Our students are so caught up in their schedules from morning to evening, there is hardly any time left to nurture and develop their hobbies and creativity.

What is your favourite memory discipline and championship? Why?
Names and Faces! It is an event that needs a lot of spontaneous creativity and I enjoy it very much. My favourite championship was the world memory championships 2011 in Guangzhou, China. I have won a Gold medal in the Open Category while I was still a junior and became the first Indian ever to win a gold medal at the world championships. I also broke a junior world record. It’s an event that is very close to my heart.
You are the first Indian to win an open category medal in Memory at the world Memory Championships. Please recall the event for us.
I was representing India at the world memory championships as a junior. Since I have scored better than the adults and seniors, I have won the gold in open category as well. It was probably the first time a junior won gold in open category. It gave me a lot of boost to train harder and I’ve won the gold again in 2012.

You were honoured with women achiever’s award in sports category by the President of India. Please share the experience with us.
Yes, I was awarded as one of the Top 100 Women Achievers of India in sports category. I was one of the youngest women out of all the 100 and it was a great experience meeting women who have done amazing things in their respective fields and are being an inspiration to many more to achieve greater heights. I am planning to collaborate with a few of the women who are working in educational fields to spread mnemonics to schools in rural areas.

You are now an important figure in the world of memory. How do you envision the future of this sport?
The sport is not very audience friendly which is making it harder for people to understand and follow it, but everything is slowly going digital right now and more people are able to understand what is happening and are following it. It is a fun sport that challenges your brain and pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone.

What are your personal future plans in regards of memory sports and memory techniques?
I just got back home from the Indian memory championship. I have won the gold in names and faces for the 6th consecutive year and 7 more medals. I am going to represent India at the world memory championship again this year. I am coaching a few athletes regularly. I hope to train a stronger team of athletes to represent India from next year.

Is there anything else you want to mention to our readers?
Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. Spend a few minutes every day doing any sort of mental exercises. They will help keep your brain in shape and increase the overall quality of life.

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