Khelo India School Games: Backed by autorickshaw wala father, Minakshi's boxing dreams get wings
Minakshi has bigger dreams, ones that are yet to take flight.
The inaugural Khelo India School Games has given a unique platform to the numerous budding athletes of the country – a platform to express their talent, to show their determination to be the very best.
And, many of the athletes have indeed taken the opportunity with both hands.
Take Haryana’s boxer Minakshi, for instance. The 16-year-old comes from a lesser known village in Rohtak called Rurkee. A place, where even a few years back, boxing as a sport was not at all popular. In fact, there was no existence of the sport in the village until 2012.
Her father, who is the sole bread-earner of the family, drives an auto-rickshaw to make ends meet. She has three elder sisters and one elder brother but none of them is a boxer. Of course, it's a hardscrabble life, and sport, frankly, wasn't a priority in the family.
On being asked how she got into boxing, Minakshi said, “When I was young, I saw that many kids from the neighbourhood were going for boxing training, even some of the girls. That peaked my curiosity and one day, I thought I will go along with them and see what they do. I got hooked from the beginning.
“No one at home knew that I had started taking up boxing lessons. In fact, they had very little idea about the sport itself,” she let in on her little secret.
The story goes, in 2012, the newly elected village pradhan Sudhir Hooda, inspired by MC Mary Kom's bronze-winning feat at the London Olympics, decided to open a boxing academy. When the call went out for all boys and girls to join, Minakshi followed the footsteps of her friends.
However, unlike many other girls from Haryana who want to take up a sport as a career, Minakshi got the support of her father, Shri Kirshan. "My father calls me his son. He has never treated me differently to my brothers or discriminated against me. Back in my village, that is a big thing. Everyone at home tries to make my life easy so I can focus on my training," she said.
"He (her father) is always telling me, 'Practice more, all my hopes are on you. I know you'll do something big'," Minakshi said, beaming with pride.
She started training under Vijay Hooda, who started the academy along with Sudhir and still coaches there. It was after she was adjudged as the Best Boxer at the 2017 National Sub-Junior Boxing Championships, that she was selected by SAI for the national camp where her coach is Amanpreet ma’am.
Minakshi, who idolises Vijender Singh, opened up about how training in the national camp has improved her as a boxer. "At the national camp, I got to know about new techniques and strategies. We get proper diets at the national camp which is a luxury back in the village. Also, since all the best boxers of the country train there, I could measure my skillset and identify what needed to be improved," she said.
At the recently concluded Khelo India Games, which were being broadcasted live on Star Sports, Minakshi went on to win the gold medal in the girls' 50 kg class. But she doesn't want to stop here, she has set bigger goals for herself.
“I don't want to say I want to win an Olympic medal. We have to take one step at a time. My goal is to do well in the Asian Youth Championships in April and World Youth Championships in August this year," the youngster said.
"I took up boxing to become independent. Only when I do that can I think about winning a medal. Right now, I want to focus on being the best I can. The rest will follow," Minakshi signed off with a cute little smile.