Behind every successful athlete is a story of overcoming adversity, which comes in many forms—financial, mental and physical. Overcoming these hurdles isn’t a guarantee of success, but it definitely leaves the athlete in a better position to succeed.
For 16-year-old Sandeep Kaur, an up-and-coming boxer from Hassanpur village in Patiala district, Punjab, the challenges were both economic and societal.
Her father Sardar Jasvir Singh drives an auto rickshaw through the streets of Patiala to provide for his family. Despite his meagre earnings, he made sure that they never went hungry. More importantly for Sandeep’s blossoming career, Sardar Jasvir took on the deep-seated patriarchal values ingrained in his fellow village folk who believed, among other things, that women should remain in the household and not pursue a sport like boxing.
With Sandeep winning the gold medal in the 52 kg (junior) category at the 13th International Silesian Boxing Championships in Poland after she overpowered Poland’s Karolina Ampuska in the final with a dominating 5-0 margin, those efforts have finally borne fruit. Earlier in the championships, Mary Kom won the gold in the senior women’s 48kg category.
For Sandeep, however, the inspiration to take up boxing came from her uncle Simranjit, who would practice the sport at an academy set up in a nearby village.
“I used to go with my uncle to a boxing academy near our village when I was a child. There, I saw several youngsters box, and gradually my interest in the sport grew. I was 8 (years old) when I first picked the boxing gloves and started training,” said Sandeep, speaking to the Times of India. In the academy, she was under the tutelage of coach Sunil Kumar.
Nonetheless, she faced a lot of resistance from fellow villagers, who believed that a woman should not box. There was immense pressure on the family to stop Sandeep from boxing, but her father was having none of that. Following in the footsteps of her idol Mary Kom, Sandeep has fought her way to the top, and today the village of Hassanpur is proud of her.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)