A bunch of 18 girls in Azamgarh aspire to be the next Sakshi Malik who bagged a wrestling bronze for India at the Rio Olympics.
Their aspiration is backed by hard work in the non-descript hamlet Nibi which has turned into a wrestling hub for girls in Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s parliamentary constituency. The SP chief himself was a wrestler in his youth.
Eighteen girls in the age-group of 15-22 years grapple with the rudiments of the sport at Lalsa Krishak Inter College, 1.5 kilometres from the village. They are being coached by Awadhesh Yadav who started training the girls in 2010.
The girls spend around two hours in the arena daily. And some of them have done well at national level competitions.
Neha Yadav, a class 10 student, says, “I want to shine as a wrestler. The sport has immense opportunities. I want to win a medal for India in Olympics. I know this is very tough. It needs utmost commitment. Therefore, I don’t skip practice.”
“When I started training the girls, some of the locals made fun of me. But I ignored their taunts and resolved to stick to the task. My resolution paid off and now there are 18 girls are in arena,” says Awadesh Yadav, founder manager of the inter college. He developed an arena on the premises of the college.
Ragini Yadav, another class 10 student who aspires to be an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, also wants to make a mark as a grappler. She took up the sport two years ago.
“Practice is the key to attaining expertise. Luckily, I have got a guru whose dedication inspires us and we will do well,” she says.
Sangita Singh, currently pursuing post graduation in Hindi, first stepped into a wrestling arena three years ago. She was motivated by the fact that success in wrestling enabled four girls of her area to get government jobs.
“Sushma Yadav did well in various wrestling competitions. She got a job in the Border Security Force (BSF) under the sports quota. She is now a BSF constable,” Singh says.
Singh has gone on to participate in national level competitions and represented the Veer Bahadur Singh Purvanchal University recently. Aspiring to become an officer in the railways, she gives credit to her coach Awdhesh.
The other girls here who want to make it big in the world of wrestling include Neha Madhesia (a postgraduate student), Kiran Yadav, Sandhya Paal, Jyoti Yadav, Sejal and Anubhuti.
Heena Yadav, Ruby Yadav and Jyoti Yadav from the adjoining villages also got government jobs.
“Asked if SP chief Mulayam Singh is aware of the effort being put in by the girls,” he says, “I can’t say. But I know he was a good wrestler before joining politics.”