Tracy Darlong always wanted to win a gold for India one day. The 20-year-old muay thai and kickboxing fighter has already won five gold medals in different championships so far, and is presently in Chandigarh to participate in the Boxe Francaise Savate Championship. But to ensure her daughter got there, Darlong’s mother had to sell off all her jewellery.
“My mother sold her jewels to help me get here and participate in the international tournament. Not everybody gets such a chance. I got it due to my mother,” Darlong told indianexpress.com from Chandigarh over telephone.
“I want to do everything for her. I want to win gold for India one day and make Mummy proud”, she said.
On Tuesday, Darlong won gold in the 55 Kg weight category beating her opponent from Sri Lanka.
Darlong hails from 82 Mile, a distant village in the Kanchancherra area of Dhalai district, nearly 140 km from Tripura’s capital Agartala. Even as a student of the 82 Mile Proper High School, Darlong was known for her sporting prowess. Her home is filled with utensils, wall clocks and other mementoes that she received as prizes.
But Darlong always wanted to be more.
“Tracy was very keen on sports – any kind of it. She used to run in school races, play shot put, javelin throw, kabaddi, fotball, volleyball. Her interest in sports began since she was a little girl in the third standard,” says Biakveli Darlong, her mother, said.
“We have encouraged her all along. We hope she makes us proud”, she said.
A natural fighter
Darlong was studying in class nine when kickboxing coach Pinaki Chakraborty visited her school. Chakraborty earlier coached kickboxer Nistha Chakraborty, who won gold at the Asian Kick Boxing Championship held at Russia this year. Chakraborty bagged a gold and two silver medals in different categories.
“Pinaki sir visited our home and asked me to promote Tracy’s interest in sports. He told us she would be a very good fighter. But I refused to let her go to Kolkata for a tournament in 2013 due to financial problems. She got another offer in 2014 to contest in Bangalore and I agreed. My daughter won a gold medal at the very first go,” Biakveli said.
In four years she won gold at the WAKO India Junior National Kickboxing Championship held at Pune, the 15th National Muay Thai Championship in 2014, the WAKO India Senior National Kickboxing Championship, the National Amateur Muay Thai Championship in 2016 and the second National Savate Championship held in Chandigarh in August in 2018. She also won silver at the India Independence Cup International Karate Championship in 2016.
Darlong credits her aunt BN Darlong – who helps their family from time to time – her coach Chakraborty, and fellow villagers for her success so far. She said had to quit studies after the class 10 due to “some family problems” but hopes to return to studies again.
Biakveli works as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) in her village. She gets a fixed payment of Rs 1,000 a month and some incentive if she can get pregnant mothers to government hospitals to deliver their children. The family doesn’t earn more than Rs. 2,000 every month. The family lives in a mud-walled house and receives no government support.
Biakveli’s husband, Letromuiya Darlong, passed away a year ago. He was employed as a work assistant in the sub-zonal office of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council . Biakveli said she’s yet to receive the family pension.
Darlong’s mother had to pawn her ancestral jewels to send her to Chandigarh for the national tournament in August. Darlong clinched gold there, and was selected for an international tournament in September. But the family had no money for small expenses during the trip.
“We had no money to send her to Chandigarh this month. So, I sold the jewels instead of paying back the mortgage”, Biakveli said.
Biakveli’s elder sister is a government employee, and often extends financial help. Some members of the community also donated money, she said. But there was no help forthcoming from the Church or local authorities, Darlong’s mother said.
What the government says
When asked why Tracy wasn’t given any government assistance, Tripura’s sports minister Manoj Kanti Deb said he didn’t have any knowledge of Darlong’s achievements. He promised that the government would assist her if she applied for help.
“The Sports and Youth Affairs department doesn’t have specific schemes for sports stars, but necessary help is provided through the Tripura Sports Council. If she applies to the government, we shall give her all necessary support”, Deb said.
However, the sports council is yet to be formed after the previous committee resigned when the BJP-IPFT government assumed office on March 9. Incidentally, in June, Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb came up with the slogan ‘Khelo Tripura, Sustho Thako Tripura (Play Tripura, Stay Healthy Tripura)’ and promised government support for aspiring sports personalities in every possible way.
Former secretary of the council, Kamal Saha, said there were different schemes for 32 associations of different sports.
“I am not sure why she didn’t get any support all this time. There are many associations and not all of them are affiliated with the Tripura Sports Council. But if she has won so many medals, she should get support”, Saha said.
However, Tracy’s case shows there are more talents lying undiscovered and more work that needs to be done for them.