Jouney to Jakarta : Kurash Girl Pincky's Battle against Funds, Grief and Time
On Tuesday, the 28th of August, the Indian contingent and fans were in for an eventful day. The excitement of an epoch-making gold medal in Javelin Throw by Neeraj Chopra and a guaranteed podium finish in Table Tennis by Men's team had not died down, and the focus had shifted to the gold medal match of PV Sindhu. In the midst of the sublime run of athletes in more celebrated sports, the valour of a 19-year old girl from Delhi in a martial art, still in its embryonic phase, largely went unnoticed. That girl was Pincky Balhara.
The case of Pincky was yet another story of an Indian athlete beating the odds, but was not just another story. It was a rollercoaster journey for her as she witnessed contrasting events in a space of a few months - lack of funding, family tragedies, an astonishing qualification, with glory at the international arena completing her circle.
Pincky had opted to compete in a sport which was almost unheard in India- Kurash, which is essentially a blend of wrestling and judo. A highly popular martial art in Central Asia, it can be described as judo in a standing position. With the sport still in the evolutionary phase in India, its apex body, the Kurash Association of India (KAI) was not recognised by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), which forced the athletes to fund themselves. At that point, the village of Pincky contributed Rs. 1.75 Lakh for her endeavours to script history for the nation.
"Healing is a matter of time, but sometimes it is also a matter of opportunity", the 19-year old manifested the words of Hippocrates as she remained undeterred despite 3 deaths in her family in a space of 3 months. Balhara lost her cousin brother, father and grandfather, and it was her maternal uncle and coach Samundar Tokas, a judoka, who motivated her in the face of adverse circumstances.
When her father passed away, Pincky, a student of Delhi University, had just 10 days to prepare for senior judo nationals. After her father's last rites, she headed straight to gym, as the athlete had to battle against time to reduce 6 kg in 5 days, to compete in the 52-kg category.
Pincky managed to win a bronze in senior nationals, and upon shifting her focus on junior trials, her grandfather passed away. Recalling the phase as the worst phase of her life, it was her father's wish for her success, that gave her the mental strength to carry on the momentum. Pincky made it into the Indian contingent with a gold in junior Asian trials.
Overpowering finance crunch, grief and time en route her highly motivating journey to Jakarta, the struggle was not over for the Delhi girl. On the eve of her bout, she was jittery of making a cut in the 52-kg category. As a result of this, she had to run around 15-20 km to reduce her weight, during the course of which she ended up exhausting herself.
Pincky won 4 bouts before bagging silver in the continental extravaganza. She recalled an incident prior to the Games, " Before the Games, one day he asked me to give him a glass of water but I did not. He told me, ‘You don’t listen to your father. You will not get gold. You will get silver in Asiad’, said a teary-eyed Balhara.
Despite scripting a chronicle at the Asian Games, she has already shifted her focus to the Olympics, exhibiting her stony temperament for the umpteenth occasion.
The martial artist might have promised gold to the national fraternity in the events to come, but her immense courage and superhuman effort in the face of her adversities are far superior to the shade of her medal.