‘Watching your flag fly high is the best feeling’
It’s been raining Gold, Silver and Bronze for Indian sportspersons at the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Fields as diverse as Shooting, Wrestling, Archery, Athletics etc have seen Indians shine and bag medals, while Delhi sees its name being inscribed in the history books as the host city of the largest Commonwealth Games, the third-biggest sports event on this planet after Olympics and FIFA World Cup.
Amid all the celebrations and excitement of the Games, Zeenews.com’s Sudeshna Guha Roy and Deepak Nagpal caught up with women wrestlers, Anita and Babita Kumari – Gold and Silver medallists respectively – for an exclusive chat.
While Anita won the Gold medal in the 67 kg freestyle competition, Babita did India proud in the freestyle 51 kg category. Interestingly, Babita’s sister Geeta won a Gold in the 55 kg freestyle.
Q: Whom do you give the credit for your success in the Commonwealth Games?
Anita: My parents supported me the most in this effort. My mother, father, sisters… my grandfather all supported me. That’s our only secret - just our hard work and the support of our family.
Babita: My family too supported and motivated me and my sisters (also wrestlers) a lot, especially my father. He gave us all that we needed. He used to wake us up at 4.00 in the morning for practice, be it winters or summers. He travelled with us for the practice and stayed with us till we completed the sessions. So we are reaping the reward of the hard work put in.
But I feel that I did not perform to the best of my abilities. I got the silver medal; I wish I had got the gold. Next time I will practice harder and fulfil that dream.
Q: Who do you think were your toughest competitors at the Games?
Babita: The Canadian players were the toughest to fight. I am happy that none of us lost to any Canadian player. I reached the semis after defeating a Canadian wrestler. Canada’s were our toughest competitors.
Q: The Commonwealth Games, an event of such great magnitude, are being held in our country! How strong is the feeling of patriotism?
Anita: The feeling is very strong. When you enter the wrestling arena for a match, the roar of spectators’ clapping, their support, everything is overwhelming. After winning the gold medal, when you hear the national anthem playing and your national flag rising higher than the rest, that feeling is unmatched. It gives you a great sense of joy and pride. And such a feeling can only be experienced when the Games are happening in India, our home country.
Q: Do you think India is ready to support sports other than cricket? Now that the Games have happened in India, do you think that the sporting culture will be nurtured?
Babita: Yes, I think that people are now taking interest in sports other than cricket. After the bronze medal wins by Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar at Beijing Olympics, people are now particularly taking interest in boxing and wrestling. I would like to thank the people for showing such love and support. There has been a change in people’s attitude. Not only are they taking interest in wrestling now, they also appreciate women’s wrestling.
Q: There was a lot of negative publicity initially surrounding the Games; about the Games Village, the hygiene, conditions of rooms and toilets etc. You too are staying at the Games Village, what do you have to say about it?
Babita: When we watched such reports on TV, we thought that it was not possible (that the Village would be so bad). But when we reached the Games Village, we were surprised to see how well the things were being managed. We think that all the reports in the media were unnecessary. The conditions now are really good.
Anita: I am really satisfied with the conditions at the Games Village. Some minor flaws might be there, but they can be found everywhere. But I did not find the Games Village bad.
Q: But do you think this negative publicity affected the spectators’ perception of the Games?
Anita: No, I don’t think so. The spectators have turned out in large numbers and have been very supportive. And even outside the stadium, every common man has prayed for our success and wished for medals for India.
Q: You are staying with foreign athletes at the Games Village. What is their attitude towards Indian players?
Anita: We are really enjoying with them and they too are enjoying their stay in India. They like our culture, our food, our traditions, everything. Many women athletes are seen applying ‘mehendi’ on their hands. They liked the opening ceremony a lot too.
Q: We have heard of instances where some foreign athletes have abused the Indian players and coaches. Do you think such attitude is of only a few or most of them hold such a negative feeling about India?
Anita: I never came across such an instance; it is from you that I have heard such a news. But even if that is the case, I feel that such attitude is held by only a few players. Not all foreign athletes hold such a feeling. They are all friendly and they all enjoy themselves at the village. In the evening, when a lot of cultural and music shows are held, everyone participates in full swing. No matter if one is old, young or a kid… they all sing, they dance, they have fun!
Q: Do you think that the Delhi CWG has been the most memorable event of your life?
Anita and Babita: Yes, definitely.
Q: Do you think India can be a world sporting power in the future?
Babita: Yes, definitely. After the CWG, India will surely see a lot of positive changes as far as the sports are concerned.
Anita: Yes, India will surely emerge as a super power in sports. I am sure kids from small villages and towns will come out and play these sports. Because I feel that it is only sports that connect everyone -- the rich and the poor, the big and the small. Sports can spread the message of unity and can bring about of lot of changes in the villages of India. Also, the Indian government’s sports policy is very nice and effective. And so, everyone will want to join sports.