Two girls, playing a sport that is making its debut at the Asian Games this year, are from India. The now famous Kurash champs, Pincky Balhara and Malaprabha Yallappa Jadhav were not even closely familiar names before the Games started. But midway through the ongoing Asian Games, the teenagers won have silver and bronze respectively in the women’s 52kg category at the Gelora Bung Karno Area in Jakarta.
When all eyes were tracking big names from the Indian contingent, two underrated sportswomen beat all odds to mark their names in history
Kurash, a form of wrestling indigenous to central Asia, has now put the spotlight on 19-year-old Pincky who lost 0-10 to favourite Gulnor Sulaymanova of Uzbekistan in the gold medal clash and settled for the silver.
Balhara booked the Asian Games berth when she went to Uzbekistan for a 20-day training camp ahead of the Games. The journey to Jakarta did not come easy. The player from India lacked money to pay for the kit and most of the help for basic facilities came from her village, Neb Sarai in Delhi. “People in my village pooled in Rs 1.75 lakh to send me to training camp. They all have supported me a lot. I am forever indebted to them,” Balhara told PTI.
The other Kurash champ is Jadhav, who is from Turmuri, a small village in Karnataka. She trounced her Vietnamese opponent Van Ngoc Tu 5-0 to claim a place in the semifinals and earned a bronze medal.
The athletes participating in Kurash don’t get much support from the authorities. Before the Games started, the Indian Olympic Association had said the athletes would have to pay for their kit as they come from a non-recognised body — Kurash Association of India (KAI). And, guess what? The sports ministry wasn’t even aware of the association or the players before Tuesday’s outcome.
“The Sports Minister (Rajyavardhan Rathore) met us in the morning and has promised to recognise us very soon,” KAI secretary Ravi Kapoor, who is in Jakarta as a technical official, said.
India had sent a 14-member Kurash squad to the Asiad and most of them are from judo background. Both Balhara and Jadhav have judo medals in international competitions. Most of the team members could not afford the kit worth Rs 35,000, so their money was spent to buy the priority equipment — the jersey and track suit.
Jadhav is a farmer’s daughter who had to fund herself to reach to the Games as well. Balhara won four bouts to win the silver and Jadhav three for the bronze.
Congrats to Jadhav and Balhara! We are proud of you!
Feature Image Credit: Firstpost