An Open Terrace in Delhi is Rakhi’s Training Hub for Judo
Thangjam Tababi Devi created history in 2018, winning India’s first judo medal at the Youth Olympics. She may not know it but her success has triggered a revolution of sorts across the country, with many kids enthusiastically taking up the sport.
An open terrace in Rohini, a small neighborhood in Western Delhi, has in fact become an unlikely hub for young aspiring judokas, with as many as 60 kids meeting every morning and evening to polish and sharpen their moves.
Among the closely-knit group, is a 15-year-old girl, who dreams of winning an Olympic gold for her country day. Simply called Rakhi, she took her first step towards her goal on Saturday, 11 January winning the bronze medal in the Under-17 Girls 44kg category of the Khelo India Youth Games 2020.
Like most of India’s top sports persons, Rakhi too comes from a typical lower middle-class family.
"My father works at a factory and my mother is a homemaker,” Rakhi said matter-of-factly, as she waited for her medal-round bout in the evening.
Rakhi has no hesitation in sharing her against-the-odds story.
“Our practice area isn't very good. It is an old building next to a hall where weddings take place; we all practice on its terrace. Unfortunately, the floor is not meant for judo; quite often, the cement comes off when we throw each other,” she laughed.
But that was not all.
Rakhi is not new to success or medals though: she has won silver in the Commonwealth Judo Championships and the gold in School Nationals; but she is well aware of the dangers of her chosen profession.
“I put myself at great risk every day. I might get severely injured and everything might end in a flash,” she declared, with a hint of fear in her eyes.
Yes, judo is a combat sport, a form of martial arts that requires strength, speed and an ability to absorb pain. But Rakhi and her friends are in graver danger, as they fight on a cement surface that is not made for such antics.
“Yes, some of us have got badly injured while practicing on the terrace. We have all pooled in and bought a mat recently, but it covers only half the terrace. So at times, when two persons are keenly fighting, they fall outside the mat area and get hurt. Even I have been injured. But it adds to the fun.”Rakhi, Judo Player
Everybody on the Rohini terrace loves their coach Babloo. He doesn't charge anything for training his group of 60. And he has a knack of producing champions and winners. Hopefully, he will be noticed and his efforts will be provided a larger platform.
"Some of us are constantly winning medals in various state and national competitions. We are all thankful to it. But do you know that he doesn't charge us for training? However, we try and finance his travel along with us when we have to go outside Delhi for tournaments," Rakhi said.
(The Quint is now available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)