At the time when the 12-year-old daughter of Sukhchain Singh, a farmer in Taran Taran district of Punjab took up wrestling at her village school, little did anyone realise that one day that young girl, Navjot Kaur, would bring laurels not only to the village but to the country by winning a Gold medal in Asian Wrestling Championship. However the journey of Navjot Kaur from a village girl to Asian gold medalist is of sweat, grit, tears, sacrifice and hard work. The 27-year-old Navjot took to wrestling along with her elder sister Navjeet when they were in school in their village. Both the sisters showed remarkable promise in wrestling and never looked back. Even Navjeet is a national gold medalist, she had to give up her wrestling career after she got typhoid for six consecutive years.
It was Sukhchain Singh who encouraged his daughters to pursue wrestling once they showed promise, even though it was not a very popular preposition. “When I saw their talent, I told myself God wants them to be good in wrestling. I believe their talent is due to the fact that the wrestling is in their blood. Even though I was not a professional wrestler, I used to pin down boys my age. I even used to wrestle with professional wrestlers and used to give them a very good fight,” says the proud father. It was financially draining for Navjot’s family to support her wrestling expenses. Her father who is a small farmer with four acres of land had to borrow money. Navjot’s sister Navjeet recalls that even though there were times when their family was stretched for finances, but they never let Navjot realise the problems and let her focus on her wrestling. Whenever, she used go out of the country, the family used to give Navjot some money so that she could buy things for herself. “We used to give her Rs 50,000- Rs 60,000 as compared to dollars our currency has little value. When Navjot used ask for a quality track suit which is expensive, my father used to buy it for her so that she doesn’t feel bad amongst her peers,” recalls Navjeet.
A wrestler has to focus on a good diet, which could easily cost Rs 2,000 daily. As Navjot is not very fond of non-veg food (even though she eats eggs), she had to spend extra on protein supplements in addition to paneer, juice, nuts and other food stuff recommended by the coaches. When Navjot won a medal at the Commonwealth Games, she was not given any job by the state government, it was Indian Railways which provided her a job in Amritsar. The job has helped Navjot manage some of her finances and eased the burden on her family. However, her family used to arrange air tickets for her to make her journey comfortable whenever she travelled within country. “Even the air ticket of Delhi to Amritsar (when Navjot returned home) after winning a gold medal is arranged by me,” reveals Navjot’s father.
It seems that the Makki di Roti and Sarson Da Sagh proved more effective than sushi when Navjot Kaur defeated Japan’s Miya Imai last Friday. Even as Navjot is not fond of chicken, she has a weakness for saag (spinach), which she relishes with dollops of fresh butter. Navjot who has returned to a hero’s welcome in her village has already asked her mother to make makki di roti and saag for her. On her way to her village from Amritsar airport, Navjot Kaur was stopped and garlanded by various adjoining villages. On reaching her village Navjot said that she would relax for a few days and then would be back to the grind of practice, “I will now be preparing for the Asian Games but my ultimate aim is to win a gold medal in the 2020 Toyko Olympics. I had unfortunately missed the 2016 Olympics but want to make up for that by winning gold this time,” said Navjot after reaching her home. The district administration also came to receive Navjot at the Amritsar airport, where family members and relatives went to receive her. The family and villagers had planned a grand welcome for Navjot Kaur. The family had arranged tea and snacks for visitors who came to wish Navjot. “We are going to dance through the night as we have arranged a small party for our extended family and friends” says her elder sister Navjeet Kaur.