Athletes who achieve glory in major international sports events usually return to a homecoming celebration. But India’s Asian Games silver medallist in Wushu, Naorem Roshibina Devi, who comes from the strife-stricken Manipur, will be denied that crowning moment because she doesn’t know when she will go home next.
Even after her final, Roshibina Devi kept punching her gloves against each other. She had dedicated her maiden silver at the Asiad to the people of the strife-stricken Manipur. She could barely get through what she wanted to say with each line being punctuated with the thud of her gloves as she tried hard to hold back her tears.
“Yes... now...I don’t know what will happen to us... Abhi pura dar ke baitha hua hai (Everyone is sitting afraid there). I wish…things go back to normal and be better than what it was before and we live peacefully. Seeing all the things burning down, it doesn’t feel so good,” said Roshibina as she wiped her tears away with her gloves.
“I am not able to go there and help. I want to dedicate this medal to those who have been protecting and fighting for us,” she said.
The journey to the silver medal has been an emotional rollercoaster for the martial arts athlete in Sanda form.
It began with the violence between the tribal communities in Manipur in May which kept her from going home for over four months and before the start of the Asian Games, three Arunachal Pradesh wushu athletes, including her friend and sparring partner Onilu Tega, were denied visas by the Chinese government for the Asian Games. They were ‘family’ to her she had said on Wednesday after her semifinal fight.
Roshibina, who hails from Bishnpur, said her family is away from the turbulence in Manipur. “It hasn’t reached my village but a lot of the fighting is happening in my Churchandpur district,” she said.
Since the riots broke out, Roshibina’s father managed to come visit her once in June at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) hostel in Imphal and her coaches have asked her not to be on calls with them during the training camp.
“My parents don’t let me come home. I live in the hostel in Imphal. They think it’s better for me to be in the hostel than go home,” she said. “Sirs [national coach Kuldeep Handoo and assistant coach Rajesh Kumar Tailor] don’t let me talk to them daily because it will bring me distress. So they take my phones away. I talk to them on Sundays for a little bit. Even then they don’t talk about the problems there.”
In spite of all these hurdles, she made the gold medal match against China’s Wu Xiaowei in front of a partisan crowd at the Xiaoshan Guali Sports Centre. Xiaowei, however, had a slight height advantage which she used it to good effect against Roshibina, whose punches and kicks failed to make an impact. Roshibina, too, didn’t come flying off the blocks like she did in the semifinal but played the waiting game. The Chinese attacked and saw out a convincing win in two rounds.
Roshibina vows to learn from this and come back stronger. “Next time I will do even better and bring the gold for India. My country has supported me a lot and their blessings have helped me get here this far. I thank you all for that” she said.
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