The gut-busting demands of judo are far removed from fairytales but international sportsperson Ranjit Kaur’s life does seem a little like Cinderella’s.
Kaur, 28, may not have married a prince, but a godfather stepped into her dreams of making it big as a judoka when he presented her with her first pair of branded sneakers. Her benefactor helped her secure a degree of financial security, which allowed her to pursue her sport and education.
Kaur’s sprawling home on Sultanwind Road was once a two-room shanty. A job in the CRPF in 2005 and a gold medal in the 2008 Commonwealth Judo Championship in Mauritius (44kg category) enabled her to give something back to her family. Kaur handed over R2 lakh she got from the central government for the Commonwealth gold to her parents.
Her magic moment happened 10 years ago, when she was introduced to Brij Bedi, president of city-based social organisation Citizens’ Forum.
Bedi took Kaur shopping and bought the up-and-coming judoka her first pair of branded athletic footwear “to motivate her”. She hasn’t stopped kicking her way through difficulties since.
“What I am today is all because of God’s blessings, the love of my father and the support of Brij Bedi,” said Kaur, adding that Citizens’ Forum took care of funding her diet and training.
The youngest of seven siblings, Kaur did not have a privileged upbringing. Her father Mukhtar Singh’s modest earnings from his iron moulding unit “did not match the size of the family”.
Kaur fell in love with judo in class 6 at Kot Baba Deep Singh School near Sultanwind Gate. “I used to see my friends and seniors take part in the game and win accolades for the school. I wanted to be like them or even better, but wasn’t sure how my family would react,” she said. She was delighted when her father permitted her to join judo classes in school.
Her pursuit of physical education paid dividends. Soon enough, she bagged a gold medal in a district-level competition. That’s when Kaur got serious about her sport and joined the Guru Ram Das Centre for Judo and started training under coach Karamjit Singh.
Kaur is now posted in Delhi as a constable and awaiting a promotion. She is also pursuing a BA degree privately, a dream she has nurtured along with her pursuit of excellence in judo. She could not qualify for the London Olympics, but has her sights on glory at the 2014 Asian Games.