On Thursday, as Hisar’s 25-year-old Kiran Bishnoi became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a medal in the freestyle 76 Kg category in Commonwealth Games, the Haryana wrestler waited to watch double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar’s final bout. Kiran, who defeated Pariadhaven Katouskia of Mauritius 10-0 to win the bronze medal, would watch Kumar’s bouts on television in her early days in wrestling and Kiran’s bronze medal-winning effort on Thursday at the Carrara Sports Arena drew praise from Kumar.
“When I started wrestling on the insistence of my maternal grandfather Ram Swarup, I knew nothing about the sport. Wrestling ka koi idea hi nahi tha. It was the same time when Sushil sir won the bronze medal in Beijing Olympics and I would watch his technical moves for practice. Later I joined Mahavir Stadium in Hisar under coach Vishnu Das and we would train with boys. No Indian female wrestler has won a medal at CWG in 76 Kg category and when I won the medal, Sushil sir congratulated me and it means a lot for me. My grandfather died in 2010 but if he was alive today, he would have been proud of the medal,” Kiran said in a conversation with The Indian Express from Gold Coast, Australia.
A native of Rawat Khera village, Kiran started wrestling at her maternal village Kali Rawan in 2009. The wrestler, whose father is a clerk in District Commissioner office in Hisar, won bronze in junior nationals, Jammu in 2011 and became the junior champion in 67 kg category in 2012 apart from winning a bronze medal in Junior Asian Championships in Kazakhstan in 2013. A knee injury in 2014 meant that Kiran missed the 2014 Commonwealth Games and remained away from the sport for more than 18 months before becoming the senior national champion in 2015. “At the Mahavir Stadium, only 4-5 girls trained when Kiran had started but we always encouraged her to practice more,” said Kiran’s father Kuldip Singh Bishnoi. “Initially her mother Geeta Devi was concerned about injuries but when she won the medal in junior nationals, she was happy. Later in 2014, when Kiran suffered the knee injury, it was a tough time for us. The Mumbai hospital, where she was treated, told us that the treatment would cost close to two lakhs but when Dr Anant Joshi got to know that she is a junior wrestling champion, he waived off his charges. Later in 2016, Kiran got a job with Indian Railways and it was a big financial relief to her and the family,” said the 48-year-old.
Coach Vishnu Das believes that Kiran, who also won the gold medal in last year’s Commonwealth wrestling Championships in South Africa, will improve with time. “Kiran’s strength has been leg attacks and she displayed that today,” said the 43-year-old. “In this category, Olympic and World Champion Erica Weibe also competed in CWG and the competition is very tough. This medal will boost her confidence for Asian Games. At the Mahavir Stadium, we train at the practice mats without an Olympic size mat and we hope Kiran’s medal will change things,” said the coach.