Poonam Khatri exclusive: 'Feels good to be world champion and to make my country proud!'

Poonam Khatri (PC: Voice of Indian Sports)
Poonam Khatri (PC: Voice of Indian Sports)

Following the Wushu world championships last year, 33-year old Poonam Khatri shot to fame when she won a gold medal in perhaps the most dramatic of circumstances. Initially, she had secured the silver medal in the 75 kg category after losing out to Iranian Miriyam. However, after the latter failed her drug test, Khatri was eventually awarded the gold.

Since then, she hasn't looked back and has maintained her performance levels.

Recently, Khatri spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview following her recent successes.

Q. First off, can you please tell us how you got into something like Wushu?

I got to know about Wushu from my cousin sister and I initially used to go to see her play and then just like any person, I really took to the sport as I found it very interesting.

Q. Is there any secret for your consistent performances?

I have consistently performed well because I have stuck to my process of believing in the process and training hard.

Q. You won the gold medal in a rather interesting way. Can you describe the feeling to us?

Yes, indeed it was not under usual circumstances but as the famous Hindi saying goes 'koshish karne vaalo ki kabhi haar nahi hoti’. Therefore, I can resonate with that saying a lot given my World Championship victory.

Q. You have become the Wushu world champion and perhaps the best in the world. What is the feeling like?

It does feel good to be the World Champion. I am glad that I have been able to make my country proud. But being a world champion comes with a lot of responsibility and now I have to live up to the title and continue to perform well.

Q. Growing up were you into sports? Which athlete gives you the most inspiration?

I really enjoyed Kabaddi growing up. It is a popular sport in Haryana and other parts of India. I have always admired athletes who have shown tremendous courage and grit. Mary Kom’s comeback to boxing after becoming a mother is so inspiring and Yuvraj Singh’s battle against cancer also showed what a true warrior he is. On a different note, I have always enjoyed Virender Sehwag as an entertainer on the field.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey in Wushu. How did you get into it and so on.

My journey in Wushu has been a life changing one. I have learnt a lot along the way. There were hardships for sure but that’s there in any athlete’s life. I used to wake up in the morning and do my own physical training and then later I would travel 50 kms to and fro in public transport to the stadium.

In 2003, I became national champion for the first time and subsequently in 2004 I made my debut for India at the Asian Championship in Myanmar where I won a bronze medal. Since then there has been no looking back. I have been a 10 time national champion and won many international tournaments. When my daughter was 3 months old, I sacrificed my maternity leave and used that time to prepare for National Championship and International Police Games where I won gold medal in both competitions.

When I look back, I feel that I started off just as a girl from a small village in Haryana and just wanted to play to the best of my ability and make India proud. That same mindset keeps me going till today. Also, I wouldn’t have made it this far without the support of my coaches and federation who have always backed me.

Q. Do you think Wushu as a sport is picking up in India?

Wushu is definitely progressing as a sport in India. We have 3 World Champions who are Indian and 3 Arjuna Awardees from the sport who have been recognised for their efforts. Many state departments are also recognising and rewarding Wushu athletes. It will be a team effort of the players, federation and coaches to take the sport forward and make it a popular sport in India.

Q. You are nothing short of an inspiration. How would you like to be remembered in the sports community?

As athletes, we tend to inspire one another with our performances. I want to be able to inspire other young girls and athletes to pursue their dreams and play sports. I will be very happy if people remember me as the girl who made it big despite the challenges of coming from a small village with a lack of facilities.

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Edited by aditya.rangarajan
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