Battling Polio And Poverty: How Sakina Khatun Reached Tokyo Paralympics

Diagnosed with polio as a child, Sakina Khatun began powerlifting training in 2010 with financial support from her current coach and mentor Farman Basha.

Ria Das
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who is Sakina Khatun
Who is Sakina Khatun: The much-awaited Tokyo 2020 Paralympics kickstarted on August 24 in Japan. It will see women leading India's medal hopes in multiple disciplines. The country will be represented in Powerlifting by Sakina Khatun, the only female para-athlete in Indian history to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

Khatun will be in action on August 27 in the women's 50kg category at 9:30 am in para powerlifting. She qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics after the World Para Powerlifting conferred a bipartite quota to her in July this year. Having been diagnosed with polio as a child, Khatun began powerlifting training in 2010 with financial support from her current coach and mentor Farman Basha, who also competed at the Games. Life has not been kind to the athlete who belongs to an underprivileged family but she has been working hard for the last two years in her quest to go to Tokyo. She also became India’s first female powerlifter to qualify for the Paralympics. It was a success that came after prolonged hardship though. This is her story:

Who is Sakina Khatun?

Born in Basirhat, West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, Khatun has been training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) National Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru. Her mother is a farm labourer while her father, ailing with a serious back condition, has been jobless for years due to his condition. Besides the powerlifting weight, the hope and aspirations of her family and village are on Khatun's shoulders now.

A silver medalist at the 2018 Asian Para Games in 2018, Khatun, as of 2020, ranks seventh in the 41kg category and 8th in the 50kg categories for powerlifting, respectively.

She participated in the 2014 Games, where she became the only Indian woman Paralympian to ever win a Commonwealth Games medal when she claimed bronze in Glasgow. She was athletic from childhood and initially started with swimming. After practicing the game in the local ponds in her village before a teacher in school noticed she had an aptitude for it, the sports enthusiast also participated in a special category in several national level tournaments. "I was ignored for the 2010 Commonwealth Games team. It left me disheartened and I quit the sport,” she had told The Hindu.

30-year-old Khatun decided to switch over to powerlifting on the advice of one of her swimming coaches, and in 2010 was directed to Basha, who is one of the most renowned powerlifters of India. Under her coach, the athlete started her training to be a powerlifter to fulfill her dream in sports. There have been mounting financial constraints and social pressure, but she pushed her limits, and hopes to bring glory to her nation at Tokyo.

Feature Image Credit: Ei-samay

Powerlifting Tokyo Paralympic Games 2020 Women Powerlifters in India Sakina Khatun