India’s Kurash contingent, which did not have money to even pay for its kits, has beaten all odds to land two medals at the Asian Games through teenagers Pincky Balhara and Malaprabha Yallappa Jadhav.
How Balhara got to the Asian Games is a fascinating story. The team had to go to Uzbekistan for a 20-day training camp ahead of the Games and help came from his village.
“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,” a teary-eyed Balhara said.
Balhara, hailing from Neb Sarai village in Delhi, and Jadhav from Belgaum made history by winning the silver and bronze in the 52kg category. The sport is making its debut at the Asian Games.
It is a remarkable effort from the girls in a sport that is almost unheard of in India. Questions were raised about the team’s participation at the Games and the Indian Olympic Association had said the athletes would have to pay for their kits as they come from a non-recognised Kurash Association of India (KAI).
KAI is not even recognised by the Sports Ministry but after today’s outcome, that could soon be a reality.
“The Sports Minister (Rajyavardhan Rathore) met us in the morning and has promised to recognise us very soon,” KAI secretary Ravi Kapoor, who is here as a technical official, said.
Most of the 14 members in the kurash squad come from a judo background as the two sports are very similar. Kurash, a sport popular in Central Asia, is played while standing while one can also push the opponent to the ground in judo.
Both Balhara and Jadhav have won judo medals in international competitions and they were instant medal prospects at the Games. As most of the team members could not afford the kit worth Rs 35,000, they arranged money to buy at least the jersey and track suit.
Rathore, however, has already assured all expenses of the non-recognised federations would be borne by the ministry.
Balhara also had to go through the loss of her father three months ago. Working in Delhi Jal Board, his father suddenly died of a heart attack. He was only 42.
“I am reminded of his words after I got selected for the team in February. He said ‘you will win silver, not gold’. That is exactly what happened today,” she said.
Jadhav is one of the four daughters of a farmer based in Belgaum. She too had to fund herself to reach here.
Balhara won four bouts to win the silver and Jadhav three for bronze.