This Is Why India's First Judo Olympic Winner Practiced In Secret And Flipped Stereotypes With Her Success

Looking at the international sports landscape today, a sport like doesn’t draw much attention among the glitter and glamor of brand-worthy cricket or football. Broadcasting hours have replaced passion, terms like viewership and monetization-capacity are controlling the once free-spirited domain of sports. It almost sounds like an irreversible scenario until stories of people like Tababi rekindle hopes and makes us believe that the veil of shadow on traditional sports can and will be lifted. 

The first Indian winner who bagged a silver medal has changed the fate of judo for our nation at just the tender age of 16. Besides stepping into a supposedly unusual sport, Devi’s journey turned twice as challenging when her parents denied their support. Thinking that this is only a sport for boys, Devi refrained from involving her parents and continued to train in secret. “I would train in secret without telling them. When they first found out, they said that I wasn’t allowed. They would ask me, ‘Why are you doing judo, you might get injured? Study, or do anything but this. Sometimes they tried to stop me, but I’d always run away. They would get angry, but I loved (judo), particularly the fighting spirit,” she told the official website of Youth Olympics 2018.

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Hailing from Manipur, Devi was born a natural fighter. Often finding herself in the middle of street brawls, she only counted losses because of her unchannelized energy. But after taking up judo, her confidence shot up and she could notice the difference in the behavior of others around her. “But judo changed my life. I got stronger and suddenly everyone respected me. No one dared challenge me anymore, even the bigger boys,” she said. Also, after practicing the sport professionally and winning it, her family also understood her passion and saw the talent in her. 

“I had to run away from my parents as well to do judo. This is common in many poor areas of India. As coaches, we have to convince (parents) that it’s good for girls, it teaches them self-defense and self-respect. But when they see the success of girls like Tababi, suddenly every parent wants their daughter to be like her,” Huirem, her coach told the official website of Youth Olympics. 

The 16-year-old is now India’s first, representing the nation in a major breakthrough. Her story is a journey that taps on issues like gender-equality and conservatism in the very country that proud itself as one of the major teams in sports like Cricket. But it’s fighters like Devi, who rely on nothing but their passion to make such accomplishments possible. Not just for themselves but for the very land they belong to. 

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