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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Ruling their turf, making India proud

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, August 29, 2014
First Published: 14:08 IST(29/8/2014) | Last Updated: 16:19 IST(29/8/2014)

Sporting heroes: Today we feature young sportspersons who have not only won medals and brought glory to the country, but also made some significant social statements — not verbally, but through their work. From a woman wrestler who comes from a family that has shattered some set notions, to a shooter who had actually taken up the sport to get admission in a course! There are also three boxers who are the future of a sport where India has cemented its position over the years

Heena Sidhu
25 Patiala
Shooter
On the mark, and on the top
Heena is the country’s first woman pistol shooter to rank world number one. After her spectacular performances in the World Cup this year, she earned the rank in 10m air pistol event. A graduate in dentistry, Heena took to shooting just to get admission in a dental college under the sports quota. But she got the seat on merit and a pastime became her passion. She won a team gold and silver in 2010 Commonwealth Games, and competed in the 2012 London Olympics too. Currently, she is preparing for the World Championship. 
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How do you define success?
Reaching my potential. Everybody is blessed with a different degree of talent, resources and opportunities, and if you are able to do the best possible with that, that’s  success.
 
Who inspires you, and why?
Many people inspire me at different times and for different reasons. Most prominent would be Sachin Tendulkar, who inspires me for the sheer humility that he has in spite of being on the top for so long. Bhagat Singh inspires me because he went all the way for a cause he believed in. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam inspires me for the genius that he is, and I believe there is no alternative to education. My family members, some of my friends and so many more people inspire me in different ways, most of which cannot be put in words.  

What has been your biggest achievement so far, and what is your ultimate goal?
The decision to pick shooting as a sport was the biggest turnaround in life. I cannot imagine what my life would be had I not chosen to pursue this sport. I was fully into academics and was very good too. I am a dentist by education! Yet I felt something was missing, and that’s when I decided to pick up a sport and chose shooting. It difficult to maintain excellence at both medical studies and shooting but I am glad I put in the effort because it is so satisfying. My ultimate goal would be to keep improving in shooting and reaching my potential, and also find a way to lead a balanced life. 

Three things that can make India an ideal nation.
I believe India’s biggest strength lies in its people with a never-say-die attitude. I do believe population is also our biggest concern, but with better education and planning we can use our population to reach great heights. Also, India is a large country with diverse people, natural resources, landscapes, and we have so much to offer to the world. Third, I believe we are unable to reach our potential because of the ‘chalta hai’ (anything goes) attitude. The day we decide to get serious and professional towards our work, we will become the best country in the world. 

In what way can youth participate in achieving that ideal?
By educating themselves. By realising that our country is as great as any other country and it is our responsibility to take care of the country. For example, we believe in keeping our houses clean; keep the garbage on the road, and then complain about the dirt. We must understand that our country is our home and it is our collective effort that can keep it clean and hygienic. The government, police, municipality, have their duties to do, but that does not mean that the youth forget their responsibility and just depend on the authorities to do everything. We should do our bit. 

What do you have to say to budding shooters?
India has abundant talent in shooting, and the new shooters are gifted. We are winning many medals starting from the junior tourneys itself, and with even better planning we can really surge ahead and become a dominant force in shooting. 

How can the game of shooting be made accessible to masses in India?
We are in desperate need of more shooting ranges. We do not need Olympic-standard ranges, but basic ranges conforming to rules of the shooting federation should come up in many towns. The state federations must propose to the government and get grants to develop small ranges equipped with air pistols so that with nominal fee anyone can start shooting. My husband Ronak Pandit and I have started a shooting academy in Mumbai, and it is surprising to see how many talented people are there who did not get an opportunity to take up this sport due to lack of infrastructure earlier.
(By Saurabh Duggal)

Vinesh Phogat
20 Balali, Bhiwani
Wrestler
From a sisterhood of grapplers, breaking stereotypes in the hinterland
The 20-year-old wrestler, along with her cousins Geeta and Babita Phogat, managed to break the glass ceiling for women in a conservative state like Haryana. Her gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 48kg category just cemented her reputation as the future of woman wrestling in the country. She hails from Balali in Bhiwani, Haryana and is coached by Geeta’s father Mahavir Singh, a former wrestler himself. She is currently preparing for the World Championship and Asian Games.
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How do you define success?
Success is making the country proud by winning medals. The joy of the family is an added bonus.
 
Who inspires you, and why?
My elder sister Geeta, because it’s due to her hard work that she has managed to create a niche for herself in the wrestling circuit and won medals for the country.
 
What has been your biggest achievement, and what is your ultimate goal?
Winning gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games is, so far, my biggest achievement. My aim is to repeat the feat in Olympics.  
 
Three things that can make India an ideal nation.
Corruption-free administrative machinery; earnest implementation of policies ensuring education to all; and end of crimes against women.
 
In what way can youth participate in achieving that ideal?
This ideal can become a reality if the youth of the country join politics with the idea of serving society and the vision of making the nation progress.
 
If not a wrestler, what would you have been?
All of us in the family are so passionate about wrestling that I never thought of being anything else but a wrestler.
(By Kuldeep Panwar)

Malaika Goel
16 Ludhiana
Shooter
Her priority is clear: Shooting above everything else
Malaika got into the limelight with silver in 10m air pistol event during the recently held Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Such has been her endeavour to achieve excellence that she has taken a break from regular schooling to concentrate on shooting. Home-schooled freed her for putting in necessary long hours at the shooting range which is at Narangwal, 25km from Ludhiana. Her father is a Punjab police officer. Malaika reaches the range at 6am for her three-hour practice session and then in the evening she heads back to the range for another round.
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How do you define success?
Making my parents happy and proud through my achievements is success.

Who inspires you, and why?
My inspiration is Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, because of his humble nature and consistency in his performance.

What has been your biggest achievement, and what is your ultimate goal?
My biggest achievement, so far, is the silver medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this year. My goal is to win gold at Olympics.

Three things that can make India an ideal nation.
Sincerity on the part of every citizen towards his or her occupation; making the country corruption-free; and developing infrastructure for different fields of activities, including education and sports.

How can youth participate in achieving that ideal?
Youngsters should always strive to achieve the best in whatever field they are involved. Dedication towards one’s work can help the country prosper.  

How do you maintain calm and focus in the face of a competition?
I usually say a lot of positive things to myself.
(By Kuldeep Panwar)

Mandeep Jangra
21 Hisar
Boxer
‘Kartoos’ is on fire, and how
He goes by the nickname ‘Kartoos’ (bullet). Mentored by veteran boxer Akhil Kumar, Mandeep hails from Kharian in Hisar district of Haryana. He has a silver medal each from the 2013 Asian Championships and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It was hard work and dedication of the boxer that forced Akhil to start his tutelage. When not in the ring, he likes to watch movies and listen to “fast tracks” in both Hindi and English.
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How do you define success?
It’s about achieving your goals, no matter if they are small or big. Having a never-say-attitude ensures success.

Who inspires you, and why?
My mentor, ace boxer Akhil Kumar inspires me the most because, besides being a good boxer, he is also a very good person.
 
What has been your biggest achievement so far, and what is your ultimate goal?
The silver medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this year is, so far, the biggest achievement in my life. My ultimate goal is to win gold for India at the Olympics.

Three things that can make India an ideal nation.
In my view, if our citizens follow the three virtues of honesty, discipline and hard work in their day-to-day conduct, India can become an ideal nation.  

How can the youth of India participate in achieving that ideal?
First of all, the youth should stay away from drugs as these things hamper one’s ability to differentiate right from wrong. Second, they should be aware about their rights and duties as citizens; and they should always exercise the right to vote to put an efficient government in power.
 
If not a boxer, what else you could have been?
I could have done something in the field of academics.
(By Kuldeep Panwar)

Jai Bhagwan
29 Hisar
Boxer
Keeping up the standards
Jai Bhagwan, who got the job of a police inspector due to his sporting achievements, is currently posted as a station house officer (SHO) at Faridabad. The 2010 CWG bronze medallist and London Olympian boxer was bestowed with the Arjuna Award for 2014. In 2011, he was part of a reality game show ‘Zor Ka Jhatka: Total Wipeout’ hosted by Shahrukh Khan. At the London Games, Jai Bhagwan’s best finish was pre-quarterfinals where he lost to Kazakh fighter Gani Zhailauov. He is a two-time medallist in the Asian Championships.
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How do you define success?
Success is the sense of satisfaction upon achieving excellence in one’s field of activity.    

Who inspires you, and why?
Different people have inspired me at different stages of my life. I took up boxing because of my landlord’s son; and later Vijender Singh, who is a champion boxer now, became my inspiration.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Competing in the 2012 Olympics.
 
Three things that can make India ideal.
Education to all, corruption-free society, and larger role for youngsters in the political system.
 
How can youth participate in achieving that ideal?
Educated and honest youngsters can steer the country in the right direction.

What would you have been, if not a boxer?
I always wanted to be a sportsperson. So, if not boxing, I would have tried my hand on some other sporting discipline.
(By Kuldeep Panwar)

Manoj Kumar
27 Kaithal
Boxer
Olympic medal is his next target
A 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist, he belongs to Kaithal district of Haryana and competes in the light welterweight class. His father is retired armyman who served duringthe 1965 and 1971 wars. Manoj gives credit of his success to his own dedication and the inspiration that he draws from his elder brother Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh was himself a boxer and used to train young boxers in Kaithal. It was there that Manoj first learned about the game. He has two bronze medals from Asian Championships held in 2007 and 2013. He also has a bronze medals from the Czech Grand Prix.
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How do you define success?
Success is all about hard work. 
 
Who inspires you, and why?
I was inspired by my elder brother, Rajesh Kumar. He has not only been my mentor but it was only after seeing him practice that I was drawn towards the sport.
 
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
It is yet to come. 
 
Three things that can make India an ideal nation?
Unity is a key to India becoming an ideal country where harmony prevails. We have to stand together irrespective of religion or caste. Also, we must tackle drug abuse, which is destroying an entire generation . And we also need patriotism.

How can youth participate in achieving that ideal?
An aware and educated youth is the key to achieving all that I have listed.  
 
If you were not a boxer, what would you have been?
I have never thought of anything else. Boxing was something that I fell in love with as a kid.
 
What is your ultimate dream?
An Olympic medal is the dream that I am chasing, and I will not be satisfied till I achieve it.

(By Saurabh Duggal)

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