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Fighting odds & setting benchmarks in sport

other Updated: Feb 14, 2010 00:53 IST
Heena Zuni Pandit

Karamdeep Insan, Aneeta Insan, Simarjeet Insan, Parvesh Kaur Insan, Gurpreet Kaur Insan. These are the names of some students of Shah Satnam ji Girls' School in remote Sirsa who have been winning medals at international level without any coach or proper facilities.

Twenty-five girls from the school have represented the country in disciplines such as judo, athletics, roller-skating and yoga. Many more have won medals in national, state and district-level events in 23 disciplines. What's surprising is that, despite coming from different districts of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, they have the same surname -— 'Insan'.

They do not have a professional coach or trainer, but seek guidance from Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insan, affectionately calling him 'Papa coach'.

“His blessings and the efforts of our sports teacher, Nirmal Nain, are enough for us,” said 16-year-old Aneeta, gold-medallist at the Yoga World Cup in Italy.

“The school management ensures that the medallists get good exposure and the best training facilities,” said Sheela Punia, the principal. “They now have a multi-purpose indoor stadium in addition to a roller-skating rink.”

Javelin thrower Gurpreet Kaur — who has played 47 nationals, winning 13 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze — said she never felt inferior to national level athletes who get the best training and other facilities.

“This is where our real victory lies; we do not have a coach or other facilities (available in national camps) but we compensate it with hard work and determination.”

She has represented India in five international events and broken six junior national records. “Every time we participate in a championship, we learn something and implement it in our school.”

Coming from predominantly agricultural backgrounds, most of these girls took admission to study but gradually picked up sport knowing well that it would help them become self-reliant.

Twenty-year-old Rekha has recently retuned from Lebanon after winning bronze at the Asian Judo Championships. Youngest of four siblings, she is happy to be the first from her family to have reached this far.

“My father is a farmer. I would be sowing seeds and working in the farm had I not come here,” she said.