From picking up Karate as an extracurricular activity in school to winning the medal at the international level, his ride has been full of ups and downs. For a sport which is yet to make its mark in India, Vikram Rathore has already left his mark on the game and he not even out of his teen years yet. We at KreedOn had an opportunity to talk with the 17-year old where he opened up about his journey in Karate so far.
Born on 4th January 2002, the story of Vikram’s first interaction with Karate is a unique one, to say the least. He chose Karate as an extracurricular activity in 3rd standard just because he was too shy to go to dancing or music. But it turned to be a life-changing decision for young Vikram.
He started performing better than his peers in school and caught the attention of his PT instructor. Vikram Rathore soon started playing at the district level but failed to achieve much in his initial years. But the youngster trained hard for two years and won the first silver medal at the district level. But the competitor that he was, Vikram was more disappointed about losing the Gold than winning the silver. And his competitive nature and hard work paid off in the form of a gold medal at the state level.
The Huge Loss
Just as Vikram was starting to perform, he suffered the biggest loss of his life. “My father died with health issues, and I was shaken from inside after the incident. I was too small to understand what god’s wish was or whatever. I was depressed from inside and started remaining quieter from then on. In fact, I separated myself from pretty much everything that I could, including Karate.” Vikram’s mother got the father’s job at the post office, which helped the family financially, but the incident made the young kid even more introvert.
He did not step in for a single bout for the next two years despite his PT instructor’s constant contacts. But eventually watching his school friend win the medal at a competition ignited the fire in him once again. “Now I wanted to prove to everyone, including myself that I can make a comeback and perform at the highest level as well. I don’t know about the time when I realized that this is my passion but challenged myself to follow Karate again and prove to the world that I am better than what they estimate.”
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After his comeback, Vikram won the gold medal in the Cadet category (14 & 15 years) at both district and state level. But at the national level, he had finished in the repurture round (Top 8). The same fate followed at the school games organized under School Games Federation of India where Vikram was playing for the West Zone in the 62 kg category for U17. This was followed by one more exit in the same round for the 3rd time in the U19 category representing the West Zone at the Nationals.
Despite his disappointing results, Vikram qualified for the trials of Commonwealth Games, South Asian Games and Asian Games as a part of Top 8 players. But he couldn’t make it to the trials due to an injury.
But as the fate might have it, he was selected in his next trials, for the Indo Malaysian Games. And Vikram got an opportunity to represent India at a competition in Kuala Lumpur.
First International Experience
“I was both excited as well as nervous while travelling to Kuala Lumpur for my first international appearance. Obviously, it was my first time that I was going to competing against international athletes. I was intimidated as their game and technique are modern as compared to ours. But still, I was determined to capitalize on this opportunity that has come to me.”
And capitalize he did! Vikram won the silver medal at his very first international competition. “It was quite appealing when you look at the fact that I don’t have a national medal yet. This was the proudest I had ever felt when received the medal (Silver) with the tri-colour around me. Obviously, not everyone is fortunate enough to achieve something this big for the nation. I was really blessed to have the opportunity of representing and bringing home the medal for our country.”
Game Plan and the Missed Gold Medal
The silver medal did not come easily, though. Vikram had to fight hard for every win in the competition. He used a smart strategy which helped him in each game. The youngster always tried to win the first point of the bout, so that he can get the win via ONSUKO, in case of a draw. And his plan worked to perfection with similar wins in the first three rounds. He did not have anything else on his mind throughout the tour – Bouts and diet plan was the only thing on his mind.
But it could have easily been the Gold if it wasn’t for a little mishap by the organizers. Vikram’s final bout was against Asian Games gold medallist from Indonesia. Despite being intimidated by his opponent, the Indian had a one-point lead going into the break. But the organizers had a certain ceremony mid-way through Vikram’s game, and the loud sound of crackers distracted him just enough to concede two kick points. “I was not really happy after the fight, though, because I lost the Final. But my coach helped me in getting over the loss and focus on what I had achieved in my first tour.”
He also went on to win All-India Junior (U18) Shotogai Challenge in Haryana and bagged a silver medal at the International Independence cup (previously Prime Minister Cup). Yet another Gold medal soon followed at the State Open Championship for Vikram, who had made a habit of winning medals for fun by now.
Source of Inspiration
Sports runs in Vikram’s family DNA. His grandfather was a DAG in the Border Security Forces and also represented India at the Asian Games. Vikram’s uncle was the captain of the Indian Polo team. His coach, Rajendra Sen won the medal at the 33rd National Games in Assam. Vikram’s family, especially his maternal uncle and coach Sen, have been the constant source of motivation and support for the 17-year old.
The Hard Worker in Vikram Rathore
But the success doesn’t come overnight for anyone. Vikram starts his day with a minimum 10 km run in the morning at around 4-4:30 AM. He also trains and works out at the academy for almost six hours. His training includes various pieces which could come handy during the bout. In the evening, Vikram focuses on weight training and strength development. Rest and diet just as important for the athlete, and he makes sure he manages both of them with his training. Kalakand (Sweet) and home-made Kadhai Paneer are Vikram’s two favourite dishes, but he had to sacrifice them for his diet.
The Risk-taker on mat, Family Man off it
“I love techniques in Karate. Defense, attack, risk-taking, etc. It is self-defense basically so you must be active on your feet throughout,” said Vikram when asked about his love for Karate.
But off the mat, he loves to spend time with his family and pet dog fluffy. He loves listening to Punjabi songs but is definitely not a movie-buff. In fact, Vikram has not watched a movie in the last three years or so.
And his message for the young and aspiring athletes of India was just as strong and his displays on the mat. “To budding sportspersons, I would suggest to not give up early after being scared out looking for a job or thinking that there is no future in sports. Times have changed now; if you are motivated enough, then you don’t end up losing everything while playing sports. You work hard, and you have a future.”
Currently recovering from his spine injury, Vikram Rathore fully intends to take rest for six months and come back even stronger. But he has already set his eyes on the next prize – Gold at the Interuniversity level and International level. And with his motivation and hard work, there is nothing this 17-year old wonder kid cannot achieve.