Northeast India has a huge fanfare for martial arts and Manipur is currently enjoying a mini-boom within the judo world. Amateur judoka star Inunganbi is part of the revolution sweeping through women’s judo at the moment. The 23-year-old Inunganbi first drew the attention of the sports lovers of Manipur in 2014 by winning a silver medal in the national championship.
She has fought at various weights in her career, but her most impressive performance came out in 2019 at Commonwealth Judo Championship Birmingham when she finished the competition winning a bronze medal. Inunganbi is also a Khelo India silver medalist in the 63kg at the 2020 edition and has finished fifth at the Asia-Oceania Junior Championships 2019.
Childhood of Inunganbi
Inunganbi was fond of playing football in her childhood. She also loved boxing and the reason was the huge influence of legendary Manipuri boxer Mary Kom. But Inungambi never tried boxing seriously. Her father T. Nabakumar was a government employee. Although Inunganbi did not come from a typical sports family, her elder sister was a serious hockey player and she had represented the state also. Still, the key factor behind Inunganbi’s passion for judo was one of her father’s friends. He was a judo coach. Inunganbi recalled saying,
“My father wanted me to learn the game and I got admitted to judo sir. Manipur was going through political and social disorder. Tension was there all the time. People often became terrorized. Amidst the situation, I was shifted to the hostel of the National Judo Academy in Imphal. During that phase, I hardly went home.”
Growth of Performance
Inunganbi won her first medal: silver in the 2014 national championship. Then she represented the country in the Asian Championship in 2019 and finished fourth. But Inunganbi feels that the semi-final bout that she lost is the best performance she has fought so far. She remembered,
“I would say the semi-final fight in the Asian Championship in 2019 at Chinese Taipei is my most memorable fight so far.”
Inunganbi still attributes a lot to that defeat. She stated,
“I learned a lot of lessons from that defeat especially, how to avoid penalties and lose points. Actually, our performance at the international level is affected due to lack of exposure. The Federation does not send us abroad to participate in the competitions.”
The benefit of practicing with boys
Inunganbi is financially assisted by JSW and she has been in Bangalore where the national preparatory camp of judokas is going on also. Inunganbi revealed that their game has noticeably improved in the last one-and-half years, thanks to the leading men judokas with whom the girls in the camp train nowadays.-- Advertisement --
“For almost the last one-and-half years the girls in the camp are getting an opportunity to train with top boys judokas like Vishal who was a bronze medalist in Asian Cadet Championship. So, practicing and playing preparatory matches with them is helping us to improve our game.”
Inunganbi’s sole mission is to win medals in international competitions, especially in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She divulged,
“Firstly we have two international competitions in Japan and then in Portugal and these two competitions will determine the qualification for the 2024 Olympics. So these two competitions are highly crucial for me. Now my focus is exclusively on these two international competitions.”