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Pincky Balhara recently won a lot of accolades for her much lauded victory at the 2018 Asian Games, where she brought home a silver medal for India in ‘kurash.’ But that’s not all that’s there to the 20-year-old’s story.
Pincky’s podium finish was well-documented, but behind the silver’s shine lay a difficult personal struggle.
Overcoming personal tragedy
Just three weeks before she was supposed to compete in the Asian Games at Jakarta in Indonesia, Pincky’s family was struck by multiple tragedies — three deaths.
“First my cousin, then my father, followed by my grandfather – all of them passed away in quick succession. Such a tragedy can break a person,” remembers the teenager.
But not Pincky, who went on to win India one of its first medals in ‘kurash,’ a form of wrestling that made its debut in the 2018 Asian Games.
Supported by her coaching team, which includes her uncle, the young wrestler carried on. But she was told by her uncle to forget the tragedy which had transpired and instead focus on her sports and win something for her country.
And Pincky did exactly that, striving to fulfil her late father’s dream of seeing her become a well-known sportswoman. A resident of Delhi’s Neb Sarai, Pincky said,
People only see the silver medal, but not the effort that went into winning it. It’s not easy for any sportsperson to go abroad and win a medal for one’s country.
The road to the medal was tough for Pincky, especially after her father passed away. There were always a lot of people at home, making it hard for her to practice, she explains. With the trials nearing, it became imperative for her to devise a way to do so. In order for her to leave the house without people passing unwelcome remarks, her friend would get Pincky’s judo attire in a bag and her uncle would help her get out by saying that she was upset and needed some air. They would then practice in secret at the gym.
“I was always scared of what people would say if they saw me practising. Indian mentality is such – look what a tragedy has occurred at home and this girl is obsessed with sports. But when I won the silver medal, everyone shut up.”
The newfound fame
Life post her win has changed significantly for Pincky, who is a student of Delhi University’s Gargi College. Before, she says, people would not interact with her much, but now it is different.
“It’s not that people disliked me, but I wasn’t particularly popular. But after the medal, I received such a grand welcome at the airport. It made me very happy to see that people who were complete strangers to me were also present there. I felt like I had achieved something that day, made my father and grandfather proud,” says Pincky.
But Pincky only has eyes for gold
Pincky has also become quite the role model for younger wrestlers who aspire to be like her. “At the sports academy at Munirka, there are a lot of young girls and boys who practise. Usually, after their practice session ends, they start playing among themselves. But when my bout is announced, they leave everything and come and sit and watch,” she says with a smile on her face.
Such is their faith in Pincky didi that these little fans always assume that she has won gold in any fight, she says, adding that she feels very happy that she can be someone’s idol and inspire them.
Any regrets for the young champion? “My dream of winning the gold medal remains unfulfilled. Next time, I will fulfil that dream,” says Pincky.
This story was originally published on The Quint.