Navjot Kaur, who became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Asian Championship gold medal, came home to a tumultuous welcome today. Talking with The Tribune about her historic gold, and her career so far, the 28-year-old Navjot recounted her journey that began as a village girl introduced to the sport by her father. Excerpts:At the Asian Championship in Bishkek, you had lost a close fight to Japan’s Miya Imai earlier, and were facing her again, this time in the final. How confident were you?I was confident.
I prayed, and in fact I was chanting Waheguru Waheguru even when I was standing on the mat to take on my opponent for the second time. I was more confident and determined this time.How did you react after the disappointing loss in the first bout?I prayed that Waheguru, give me another chance so that I can defeat her (Miya Imai).
After that I started the path of Japji Sahib.How did your interest in the sport start?It was not my decision to choose wrestling as a sport. It was my elder sister Navjeet’s decision. She loved the game and practised it at school. She needed somebody to accompany her, so that she did not have to go alone for practice. I had no interest in it initially.
The interest grew gradually.Navjeet had to give up wrestling due to a severe knee injury. How did that affect you?After my sister was forced to abandon the dream, I took it upon myself to fulfil it.You also suffered a serious back injury three years ago, soon after you won a bronze at the Commonwealth Games…My injury initially was minor but I was so much engrossed in wrestling that I did not want a break, and in the process the injury got complicated.
Due to it, I missed qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games.How had your relatives reacted to your father putting you in wrestling?They were not supportive. For a while as I was coping with my injury, these people would again tell us how they were right initially and that wrestling is not a sport for girls!Who was your main support through all these years?My father Sukhchain Singh and mother Gian Kaur stood like a rock beside me and my sister.
For a farmer’s daughter with a small landholding (four acres), considering the expenses on the diet alone, wrestling is a luxury. Sometimes I wonder how my father managed it. Besides, he had to deal with people who thought we were breaking some law by practising wrestling!