Taekwondo Star, Nisheeta Kotwal can be a new hope for India
Like most Indian athletes competing in lesser-known sports, Nisheeta’s name appears on an obscured list somewhere. Her achievements, like her recent win at the Fujairah Open, go unreported. She struggles with finances to train, travel and participate in championships or even buy equipment that matches
But, like all Indian athletes she’s still beating the odds - one kick at a time - to excel in a sport a few talk about.
Nisheeta began training when she was 5 years old. Her father, a Taekwondo player and now a coach, initiated her into the sport at a tender age and transformed her into India’s No.1 player in the under- 49 kgs category.
For the last 10 years, she has undergone rigorous training. She starts her day with a 1-hour long journey to her training center in Balewadi from her home in Pune where she trains for 2 hours. She returns home and packs for school and then goes back to her training center in the evening to train for another two hours.
“With international competitions lining up, Nisheeta had to dedicate more time to her training. Her coach suggested we try open schooling so she can focus on the sport more," said Suneet Kotwal, Nisheeta’s father.
At just 16, Nisheeta has set herself the mammoth goal of participating and winning at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. She has been shortlisted by the Taekwondo Federation to participate in the qualifiers.
The road to Argentina
To improve her world ranking, Nisheeta must participate in multiple international events. However, gathering finances to train and travel to those events is an impediment to her dream. Her family has been funding her so far and some resources are coming from her fellow player, Rutuja’s family. But, there’s only so much that can buy.
“We often have to choose between important tournaments, since we can’t afford to send Nisheeta to all of them and she misses on opportunities to improve her rank. Sometimes, we all together have to cancel going to the event due to lack of funds,” says Suneet.
In March this year, Nisheeta had to pick between two big events. One was in Malaysia and another in Bulgaria. Though both were equally important for her rank, her family could only fund the journey to one. They decided to go to Bulgaria to gain more exposure to European competitors.
After years of struggling for funds as well as sacrificing their day-to-day costs to further Nisheeta’s dream, Suneet finally found a solution in crowdfunding.
He started a fundraiser on Impact Guru and has raised Rs. 2.8 lakhs so far! 44 donors have come together to fund her training costs.
Crowdfunding was a blessing in disguise. Nisheeta was able to travel to Fujairah Open in February with the amount collected and won the tournament. Her world ranking has jumped to 64 and she stands at 50 in Asia!
“We sent a big thank you to all our donors and supporters, they made this happen for us. Nisheeta would have taken a huge hit, had the funds not come in on time,” a grateful Suneet said.
The next step is to win the qualifier for the Youth Olympic Games in Tunisia scheduled in October. The estimated cost for participating there will be Rs. 3 lakhs. Her fundraiser on Impact Guru is still on and raising funds.
Meanwhile, Nisheeta is gathering all her force and focus towards qualifying and winning the Youth Olympic Games! If she is able to reach there, even if she doesn’t get a podium finish, she stands to be a promising athlete to help India win a medal for Taekwondo at the Olympics!