As Sushila Likmaban and Navjot Chana make their way out of the judo hall, their expressions and general mood seem eerily similar. Likmaban is violently shaking her head while Chana disdainfully kicks the air, muttering to himself, in what seems like intense frustration.
“We were there. I just had to take one step. I thought I had the match locked up. My score was up but a few mistakes owing to my aggression has made me miss out,” says Chana, refusing to be placated by the fact that he was now a Commonwealth Games silver medalist in 60 kg judo.
Likmaban, who has earned a silver for herself in the 48 kg women’s event, said that it was perhaps her eagerness to go on to the mat and play too freely, which cost her the gold medal.
“Before my final, my coach told me that I should go and play with a free mind. He told me to go enjoy myself but I think I took that too seriously. I tried a few techniques, which I normally would not have and my opponent took advantage of that,” she says.
Chana lost to England’s Ashley McKenzie, while the 20-year-old Likmaban went down to Scotland’s Chloe Rayner. The 31-year-old Chana, an assistant sub-inspector with Punjab Police comes from a family of Judokas.
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Likmaban came in for high praise from her opponent , who conceded that on the day Likmaban was a far better player. “The way she executed all her techniques through the competition was great to watch. She definitely knows her judo and I think she was just a touch nervous in the final and I got an opening,” says Rayner.
Chana born in Hoshiarpur, a judo bastion, says he was attracted to the martial art, while watching his elder brother and sister practice it at home. “These two silver medals are going to make a lot of difference to the sport back home. After 12 years, it is being played at the Commonwealth Games and India picking up medals here is a very encouraging sign,” he says. The 31-year-old says that it was his overtly aggressive style that pulled him down. Chana’s foul count started racking up as the bout progressed.
Likmaban though continues to berate herself for squandering a gold which was almost within her grasp. “Considering how close I was, this (silver medal) is no real consolation.”