Video Editor: Vishal Kumar
Three weeks before 19-year-old Pincky Balhara was to compete in the 52-kg Kurash (wrestling) category, she lost her cousin, her father and then her grandfather. The loss of loved ones in such quick succession would’ve been enough to crush anyone – but not Pincky.
With some mental and physical coaching and her eye on the prize, she was back on her feet and in the gym in Delhi’s Neb Sarai. She was a special guest at the Outlook Speak Out 2018 – a platform which brings together achievers who have made a difference by pushing the envelope of excellence in their chosen field.
The Quint was the digital partner for the second edition of Outlook Speak Out that put the cause of ‘women’s empowerment’ front and centre.
Watch and read the excerpts from our conversation with the indomitable Pincky Balhara.
The weeks before the Asian Games were very tumultuous for you. What helped you cope and stay focused?
I won a silver medal in the 52 kg category at the Asian Games. But just before I was to compete, there were three deaths in my family. First, my cousin, then my father and then my grandfather. Such a tragedy can break you. But my coaching team, which includes my uncle, was very supportive. They told me what’s gone is gone, to focus on the future and my father’s dream to make our country proud. People only see my silver medal, not the hard work that went into it. It’s not easy for a sportsperson to go out and win. My dream for a gold medal is still unfulfilled, but I’m confident I will get it next time.
But how did you manage to continue your practice during this period?
When my father passed away, lots of people were home, making it difficult for me to practice. But it was important I practice for the trials. My friend would hide my judo dress in her bag and my uncle would tell the family that Pincky keeps crying, so I’m going to take her out for some fresh air. We would practice in secret at the gym. But I was always scared of what people would say if they saw me practicing. Indian mentality is such – look what a tragedy has occurred at home and this girl is obsessed with sports. But when I won the silver medal, everyone shut up.
How has life changed since in your neighborhood, Neb Sarai in Delhi?
I wasn’t popular earlier, nobody messaged me. But after I won the silver medal, I received a grand welcome at the airport. There were so many people, some of whom were complete strangers. I received so many messages that day. It was the happiest day of my life. I felt like I have achieved something, that I have made my father, my grandfather proud.
At our academy in Munirka, the junior-most, youngest of athletes start playing amongst each other after their own practice session is over. But when my name is announced, all the girls and boys come sit and watch how I fight.
The junior girls say that whenever Pincky didi wins, she doesn’t have to announce she’s won a medal because it’s a given. So, I feel very happy that I can be an idol and inspire someone’s future.
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