"My father (who passed away) said that he would accompany me to the Games. I had never allowed my parents to come to my practice sessions, as it used to make me nervous. But I would have been happy to have him here."
Many Indian athletes have done their country proud in the ongoing Jakarta Asian Games. There are those who have excelled in well-known track and field events, team and individual competitions. Nonetheless, others are doing the same in sporting events that don’t have the requisite high profile.
One such example is ‘Kurash’, a form of wrestling popular in Central Asia, where the objective is to throw the opponent down on their back by grabbing hold of a towel around their waist. It’s ancient sport dating back thousands of years and contains many similarities with judo.
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For 19-year-old Pincky Balhara from Neb Sarai in Delhi, who recently won the silver in the 52-kg event, the journey to sporting success has been nothing short of excruciating.
Earlier this year, she lost three of her family members – a cousin brother, her father and her grandfather – in the space of just three months. She fought through all that emotional trauma and won the silver medal for India.
“That was the worst phase of my life. I lost my cousin brother first, then my father to a heart attack and then my grandfather a month later. It happened just so quickly,” Balhara told the Times of India. “My father passed away a few days after I had made it to the Asian Games team. He was so happy.”
Before switching to Kurash, Balhara, a student of Gargi College, started her career as a Judoka (a practitioner of judo). During these difficult times, however, it was her maternal uncle Samundar Tokas, a Judoka, who helped her pull through.
Not only did Balhara have to deal with the trauma of losing her father, grandfather and cousin, but she also had to lose weight from 58kg to 52kg to be eligible for the Asian Games.
Nonetheless, what she remembers so vividly is how her father promised to accompany her to Jakarta for the tournament.
“He said that he would accompany me to the Games. I had never allowed my parents to come to my practice sessions, as it used to make me nervous. But I would have been happy to have him here. Before the Games, one day, he asked me to give him a glass of water, but I did not. He told me, ‘You don’t listen to your father, you will not get gold. You will get silver in Asiad’. I remembered his words when I finished with the silver,” she told the publication.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)