Haryana girls Raj Sahiba and Minakshi made their school and state proud at the first Khelo India School Games as they won the Boxing Gold in their respective weight class. Both the girls who are doing equally well at the national sub-junior and junior level have once again proved their metal on the biggest sports competition of India under-17.
Haryana Girls – Raj Sahiba’s journey in Boxing
Six years ago, Satyawan (her father) watched MC Mary Kom win an Olympic Games bronze medal. That sight got stuck in his mind. He encouraged his daughter Raj Sahiba (who was 10 at that time), to take up the sport. Satyawan believed her daughter had it in her to make India proud, too.
Raj Sahiba’s entry into the medal rounds in the inaugural Khelo India School Games comes as no surprise. Among the Haryana girls, she has already won gold, not just at the National Sub-Junior Championship 2017, but also at International tournaments in Ukraine and Serbia in January 2018.
“I have had a good beginning to 2018 winning the gold at the Nations Cup in the 70kg class. Back in December, I won in Ukraine (at the Valeria Demyanova Memorial International tournament) where I defeated a local boxer. That win was extra special,” she said.
“I have always been into sport. In my primary school I used to be quite active in athletics and wrestling since they did not teach is boxing,” added Raj. Her shift to boxing came during her middle-school years when she moved to Bhiwani to train with veteran boxing coach, Jagdish Singh. He was the one who recognized Raj Sahiba’s potential.
Haryana Girls becoming a boxing powerhouse
Haryana has produced world-class boxers for quite some time now. But Raj Sahiba is the first women boxer to emerge from the Sansi (nomadic tribe) in Haryana.
“I have seen a lot of my friends who were married off at a young age,” she says. “I think I have been lucky to have my father’s support. Boxing is a big sport in my city. My father always pushed me to it.”
Raj Sahiba has fulfilled her dream of meeting her idol Mary Kom.
“She had come to our academy. I told her that she was the reason I took up boxing. It made her happy and she blessed me,” Raj Sahiba says. Her journey of living up to her father’s expectations has been memorable as she adds to the list of success stories from the heart of India’s boxing capital.
Haryana Girls are proud of Minakshi
Haryana’s Minakshi backed by the entire Rurkee village and its Sarpanch to take wings has emerged as a boxer of quality. She rewarded them with a fine victory over her friend and international medallist Arshi Khanum (Rajasthan) to secure a 50kg class medal at the inaugural Khelo India School Games here.
Even for someone who was adjudged the Best Boxer at the 2017 National Sub-Junior Boxing Championships, beating an international medalist was special. The feeling got deeper since the bout was a repeat of the 50kg final at the Junior Nationals.
“Before this bout, Arshi had said that she would easily win because she is now an international medalist. I proved her wrong,” Minakshi said for her opponent. Apparently, Arshi had won bronze medal in the seventh Nation’s Cup tournament for junior and youth women held in Serbia in January.
“We train together at National camps and she is a friend, but overconfidence is not good.”
Minakshi was unable to participate in the tournament as she was born in 2001 but she has set her hopes higher.
Haryana Girls balancing sports and family
“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,” she says.
“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,” says Minakshi who idolises Vijender Singh.
She credits the village Sarpanch Kuldeep Hooda for introducing boxing to the village and claims that girls in Rurkee are encouraged to take up the sport. Youngest of four siblings, Minakshi carries the weight of expectations of her family and village. Her brothers and sisters work to contribute to the family’s income.
“My father (Shri Kirshan) 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. He pushed me to practice. Everyone tries to make my life easy so I can focus on my training,” she says.
“Our sarpanch brought new think to our village. He introduced us to boxing and girls and boys participate equally. Rurkee is progressive that way,” concludes the proud Haryanvi.