A mud pit that served as a makeshift wrestling arena on her father’s small farm became the perfect training ground for Kalyani Gadekar.
This does not mean that the Maharashtra wrestler, 53kg silver medalist at the Khelo India Youth Games 2021, was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
It’s just that his father had no choice. A wrestling fan, Pandurang Gadekar wanted the young Kalyani to become a wrestler. But their small village called Jaipur in the Washim district of Vidarbha did not have a single training center.
“My dad kind of got some soft gym mats and put a sheet on them to make me feel like I was playing on wrestling mats,” she laughed.
Father and daughter tango, however, did not stop with the emergence of the improvised wrestling arena. Pandurang even had to take on the role of coach and coach as there were no coaches in their district, despite the state having produced countless national and international winners over the years.
Their partnership ended when Kalyani made it to the national school championships on her very first attempt. His parents then sold part of their land to transfer it to Sonepat for additional training.
“My younger brother and sister continued to train in the same mud pit when I changed cities. We had a lot of fun when we were kids,” Kalyani recalls.
Incidentally, now the three siblings are all training at the Sports Authority of India’s National Center of Excellence in Mumbai.
Kalyani, 18, has clearly come a long way since her initial training, winning the silver medal at 53kg here on Wednesday.
It wasn’t easy though. Twice she came from behind to beat Punjab’s Manjeet Kaur in the semi-finals. But she was unlucky in the gold medal fight, unable to stop the Antim juggernaut of Haryana.
“I’m still happy with my performance. I normally compete in the 50kg class. But since there’s the 49kg class here, I had to switch to the 53kg class. I couldn’t reduce my weight in such a short time,” explained Kalyani, who had also won a silver medal in the KIYG Pune edition, in the 46 kg category.
About a year ago, she was selected to train in Kandivali, Mumbai under the SAI program and worked with coach Amol Yadav on her tactical game.
“She is physically very strong and was very defensive due to the lack of proper training. But we are working on it and I am sure we can see a major improvement in its performance over the next 6-10 months,” Yadav said.
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