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School Nationals Champions: Fighting with the fists, following in the footsteps of their fathers

Five years ago, Panchkula resident Nandini Thakur opted to pursue athletics as a sport and would train regularly at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh | Published: May 21, 2016 10:59:28 am
Nandini-Sheera 759 Nandini Thakur (left) and Seerat Khera (right) Express photo

Five years ago, Panchkula resident Nandini Thakur opted to pursue athletics as a sport and would train regularly at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula. She would often hear about her father Arvind Thakur being a national-level boxer. With initial success not coming in athletics, the Panchkula girl opted for boxing in 2014. Earlier this week, Nandini successfully became the champion in School Nationals for the second time in the middle-weight (75 kg) in the All India School Nationals games held at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, a feat which her father also achieved in the Chandigarh State Championship for three consecutive years in the 1990s.

“I was always interested in athletics but would also hear about my father’s achievements in the boxing arena. In 2014, I thought of giving boxing a go. My father would train me at our home gym apart from training at the stadium. The gold medal in the School Nationals at Telangana in 2014 was also my first major medal. And winning the title again at Anandpur Sahib means a lot for me and my family,” said the 15-year-old pugilist, who recently passed her class X exams from Little Flower Convent School, Panchkula.

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Nandini has won five titles at the state level in various age groups, which also include winning the gold medals in Haryana Open State Championship in 2015 and 2016. Her exploits in the boxing ring last year also landed her a spot in the Indian junior boxing team, which took part in the World Junior Boxing Championship in Taiwan last May. Although Nandini could not win a medal in Taiwan, she did get to meet London Olympics bronze medallist Mary Kom.

“Apart from my father, I consider Mary Kom as my idol. Meeting her before the championship was a big motivation for us. Although she competes in a light-weight category, her tips helped youngsters like me,” added Nandini, whose father Arvind now runs a bouncer management firm in Panchkula.

Similar is the story of Chandigarh youngster 14-year-old Seerat Khera, who won the gold medal in the 81 kg category at Anandpur Sahib. Khera’s father Happy Khera too is a former national-level boxer and won the gold medal in Punjab State Championships in 1987. Seerat won the title in the boys’ U-17 category and since the U-14 category did not have his weight category, the youngster had to compete in the U-17 category.

“My father and uncle Ravi Khera both have been national-level boxers and they also competed in the middle-weight and heavy-weight categories. They would call me daily and tell me how to fight in an age category higher than my age. My opponent in the final, Vikram, has been competing at U-17 level for a long time and to win the gold medal against him was encouraging. My coaches Balwant Singh and Jai Hind sir at Sector 42 Stadium have always encouraged me,” said Seerat, a student of St John’s School, Chandigarh.

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