India's next Mary Kom is all of 16 and comes from a village in this district. Mandeep Kaur Sandhu, the girl from Chakar, on Saturday became world junior boxing champion.
At 8am on Saturday, most residents of her village were on the internet to catch her in the 52-kilogram final in Taipei, Taiwan. At 10.30am, they were dancing in joy, feeling on top of the world, as she beat her Irish opponent. These were not the first victory celebrations for the Class-12 student who has many national and international titles under her belt, but these sure were the biggest.
"The final had got us all very excited," said Harpreet Kaur, cousin of Mandeep Kaur, adding: "Some of us were following it on YouTube. Her coach was sending us videos of the bout constantly. When her hand was raised, it was a proud moment for us." The boxer's mother, Daljeet Kaur, couldn't watch these videos because of pending chores, but her ears were glued to the news coming in from Taipei. "I knew my daughter would make it," she said. "Mandeep called us later and said: 'I have won.' A grand welcome awaits her on return," said Harpreet Kaur.
It was a proud day also at Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy, Mandeep's first training ground. "We have a plenty of international titles, but a world championship is like an Olympic medal to us," said academy president Balwant Singh, adding: "The girl's indomitable spirit took her to victory. She started boxing in 2008 and since 2011 is getting us medals regularly."
The academy that villager Ajmer Singh Sidhu and Canadian NRI Baldev Singh Sidhu founded at Chakar is churning out many successful athletes. Besides Balwant Singh, SP Singh of Patiala and Surinder Kaur have coached Mandeep Kaur. Her father, Jagdev Singh, is a farmer; and her elder brother, Jagwinder Singh, is a state-level boxer.
State and national championship, 2011, Tamil Nadu
State and national championship, 2012, Kolkata
State champion, 2013 and 2014 (no nationals held)
Gold medal in 4th Junior Nations Boxing Cup, 2015, Serbia.