Jharkhand-based coach Bablu Kumar says that in India, wrestlers mainly come from Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab. “Even the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 has a majority of wrestlers from Haryana,” he notes.
But the situation has changed, he adds. By qualifying for the World Cadet Wrestling Championship, 14-year-old Chanchala Kumari from Jharkhand has put the state on the wrestling map of India. The games will be played in Hungary between July 19 and July 25 later this month.
“Jharkhand state was formed in 2000, and since then, we have never had a wrestling champion. So now there could be no prouder moment for the state,” he tells The Better India.
But Chanchala’s journey was never as glorious as it looks now. She belongs to Hatwal village, located around 30 km from state capital Ranchi, and her father owns a half-acre land which hardly earns enough income to sustain a family of six. He doubles up as a plumber, or takes up odd jobs to meet living expenses.
The financial condition of the family, which belongs to the Oraon tribal community, is weak.
On many days, they survived only on maad bhaat, which is boiled rice with starch. On good days, they can afford to eat rice with one vegetable.
Fortunes changed for Chanchala when the Jharkhand State Sports Promotion Society (JSSPS), a state government scheme that identifies sporting talent from rural areas, saw potential in her.
Bablu explains that an MoU was signed between JSSPS and Central Coalfields Limited to use Khel Gaon sports complex, a state-of-the-art facility constructed in 2009 for national games, as a training ground for budding sportspersons.
A rising star
“In 2016, we screened many children and conducted physical training for six months to identify their potential and inclination towards sports. Chanchala was 11 years old when she came with her mother to sign up for training,” Bablu recalls.
He says that Chanchala showed potential in wrestling and trained over the years. Her efforts reaped results in the form of a silver medal in 2017-18 from the School Games Federation of India, followed by two gold medals in 2019 and 2020, putting her on the highest rank in the under-15 category.
Later, Chanchala won bronze in a national tournament held in Kota in 2020. In October the same year, she qualified to train in Lucknow India camp with wrestling stars Sakshi Malik and Geeta Phogat which concluded in March 2021.
In June, she qualified in the wrestling trials at New Delhi to represent India in the World Cadet Wrestling Championship. Apart from Bablu, Chanchala received training from Bholanath Singh and Rajeev Rajan.
Chanchala says, “I had no knowledge about wrestling. I learned over the years as I trained. Boys and girls wrestled with each other, which helped us overcome our fear and boost our self-confidence. My focus is to perform my best in the upcoming international competition.”
She adds that her family always supported her, and that her brother Kishor accompanies her whenever she needs him. “I hope to earn laurels to support my family and make India proud,” she adds.
Kishor says, “We decided to register Chanchala’s name so she could pursue her education alongside sports. Her achievements are extraordinary and have brought happiness to our lives. We wish her to win medals for the country,” he adds.
Bablu says while government support has brought the state into the limelight, the players need more financial help. “They need money to focus more on their diet and training. I have been a wrestler for 15 years, and I understand the needs of a sportsperson. Coaches give their 100%, but we wish to provide all necessities and ensure that nothing stops the new generation of athletes from achieving their dreams,” he adds.
“There were four girls who entered wrestling in 2016, but now, there are 30 undergoing training. Monetary support can motivate other players and boost the results,” he shares.
As he hopes for more support for the upcoming players, Bablu has his eyes on Chanchala, hoping she scripts history by winning at Hungary.
Edited by Divya Sethu