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Sleepy hamlet rides a high wave

Home to over 15 champion judokas, a tiny village on the outskirts of Varanasi is making news in Japan, the birthplace of judo, reports Anuraag Singh.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2009 23:48 IST
Anuraag Singh

Home to over 15 champion judokas, a tiny village on the outskirts of Varanasi is making news in Japan, the birthplace of judo.

Exploits of village Bhatti's judokas, including Commonwealth champion Ram Asre, will be telecast by NHK BS1 (a premier Japanese TV channel) on February 22.

"Asian Smile, a 30-minute documentary on Bhatti (also known as Judo-Bhatti) was shot last year by a crew led by director Fujimoto," Akio Sugimoto, a part-time Japanese teacher-cum-restaurateur here, told the Hindustan Times.

"The documentary was shot in the village and Varanasi Sports Stadium after the media there came to know about the success story (especially Ram Asre's gold medal in 73 kg at the Commonwealth Judo Championship in Mauritius in January 2008) through a Japanese daily.

"After the telecast, we'll talk to the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Delhi and try and fund the coaching of the judokas by a high-flying coach from my land," Sugimoto said.

But even before the telecast, Bhatti has captured hearts in the Land of the Rising Sun. Four-time world champion and 1984 Olympic gold medallist Yasuhiro Yamashita sent six premium judo-gees (judo gear) for promising talents in November last.

Yamashita, who registered 203 consecutive wins in his illustrious career, recently sent six more sets to coach Lal Kumar.

Incidentally, despite his efforts, Kumar, a NIS-certified coach, is yet to be acknowledged by the authorities in Uttar Pradesh.

Yamashita (51), who compiled an instructional video with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (a black-belt in judo), has promised to send 15-20 more judo-gees. Both Sugimoto and Kumar hope that the ties between Yamashita and Bhatti grow stronger.

For a village known for its wrestlers, Bhatti's love affair with judo started in the early 1990s with Kumar's pupil German Yadav and his brother Ram Asre making a mark.

Since then, Bhatti has produced over 15 national champions (in various age groups). They include Brijesh, Subhash Yadav, Bechu, Rahul Rai, Kanhaiya Yadav, Manoj Pal, Ganesh Yadav, Shiv Kumar, Radhey Pal, Avdhesh Kumar and Shambhu Pal.