Taking up a sport that was at first ridiculed by his friends, Praveen Kumar’s historic gold at the recent World Championship ended up bringing parents and kids closer to wushu.
Going off to sleep every night “with thoughts of winning only the gold” has paid off handsomely, for the feat in Shanghai, China last week is as much a recognition for the sport as it for the Haryana athlete himself.
“My parents were unaware of the sport and friends would make fun of the name wushu. I would show them the fight videos and they started finding it interesting. Fight dekhke bolte the ye to bahut accha game hai (after watching the fights, they found it interesting),” Praveen told Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“I set up my mind then that I have to do well in the Asian and the World meets,” said the first Indian man to win a World Championship gold.
Since winning the gold, Praveen said he has been flooded by calls with parents enquiring about the sport.
“I am now getting a lot of calls from youngsters and parents asking where to start their training. Pramod Kataria, my senior, has opened his own academy in Haryana, while there are academies in Delhi as well,” he said.
“My suggestion is start with a mixed regime with focus on punches and throws. As for me, my favourite technique is throwing with a single leg takedown as well as the right thigh kick,” he added.
Serving in the Indian Army, Praveen achieved the feat in the 48kg sanda category, defeating Philippines’ Russel Diaz 2-1 in the final.
“My Army coaches and mentors kept motivating me, telling me constantly ‘ tu yeh kar sakta hai’ (you can do it).”
“Every night, as I lay in bed, even I thought that I can probably do it. I started working hard and during the camp two months back, I made up my mind, ‘If I have to bring home a medal it has to be gold,” he added.
The 2016 Asian Championship silver medallist was inspired to take up the Chinese martial art in 2011-12 after watching a state-level tournament at a university in Rohtak.
Wushu sanda is a martial art which combines full-contact kickboxing, including close range punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps and kick catches.
“It had kicks, punches, throws and that intrigued me. I approached Pramod Kataria, who was working in the CRPF then, to help me practice the sport,” Praveen recalled.
The 22-year-old won a silver medal in the junior nationals in 2014 and followed it up by clinching the senior national title a year later.
After settling for a silver at the Taiwan Asian Championships in 2016, Praveen missed the chance to qualify for the World Championships in 2017.
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