Assam teenager Pooja Basumatary just claimed the first gold medal for the state in Girl’s Under-17 57 kg category in the judo event at the ongoing third Khelo India Youth Games. On January 12, Puja made her country proud with the stellar performance, hence becoming the first from Assam to bag a gold medal in the Khelo India Youth Games. She was up against Uttarakhand opponent and led by 1-0 in the final held at the SAI Centre in Paltan Bazar, Guwahati.

Assam, the host state, had earlier won a silver and two bronze medals, all three earned by gymnast Upasa Talukdar. 17-year-old Puja hails from Karbi Anglong district and represented India at Commonwealth Judo Championship in London in September last year.

The state won an elusive gold by a girl from Karbi Anglong — Pooja Basumatary — providing the home state its first gold in under-17 judo girls’ 57kg category

Key Takeaways:

  • 17-year-old Puja Basumatar won the first gold medal for Assam in Girl’s Under-17 57kg category in the judo event at the ongoing third Khelo India Youth Games.
  • Assam, the host state, had earlier won a silver and two bronze medals, all three earned by upcoming gymnast Upasa Talukdar.
  • Puja chose judo over wrestling as a kid.

Why did Puja choose Judo

Puja, whose father is a cab driver, chose judo over wrestling as a kid, and then there was no looking back for her. She was inspired by her brother, a national-level wrestler, when she saw him participate at a local competition. She felt she was “meant to compete as an athlete” when she saw the wrestling and judo matches, Telegraph India reported. However, choosing between wrestling and judo wasn’t an easy decision.

Puja says she chose judo because she “didn’t like the wrestling costume, and preferred the judo dress.”

She started competing professionally in 2018. In the span of just a year and half, Puja has emerged as one of the most promising judokas in the country. Currently, she trains at the Khelo India national camp in Bhopal under coach and former Arjuna Awardee Yashpal Solanki. As a promising judoka who has all the talent to match up senior-level athletes in the country, the 17-year-old Puja “eats, breathes, lives judo” and “watching her walk into the judo arena is like seeing a viewer watch her favourite movie,” said her coach.

Puja’s family is backing her up unconditionally, and though financial challenges are there, the promising player is working up the ladder in judo. She says her “only aim is to become the number one in India and be among the top-10 athletes in the world.”

“Having already become the best player in youth nationals last year, currently Puja is one of the finest judo athletes in the country, and with the caliber that she possesses, I expect her to become the number one in the senior category in India by the end of this year,” said Solanki.

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“I am looking forward to big competitions and don’t focus on winning the competition,” but she added that she “wants to just beat the judoka who is in front of me on the mat.”

“I am always ready to fight and just aim to apply my technique and beat my opponent. My coach keeps telling me to calm down during matches but I have only one goal in mind — to win,” she concluded.

Feature Image Credit: North East Now

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