With the venue for the Second Junior National Boxing Championship situated on a highway, 16-year-old boxers Vinka and Raj Sahiba would be engulfed with familiar sights and sounds between their training sessions. The two teenagers would see autos and taxies plying on the busy Chandigarh-Ludhiana highway.
After winning the titles in the 63Kg and 70Kg categories respectively, Vinka and Raj Sahiba, recalled the important part these vehicles had played in their progress.
“My father Dharmender Singh drove an auto for 15 years before driving an taxi for the last six years in Panipat. After winning the gold medal, when I made my way to back to the National Boxing Academy, Rohtak, I would see these taxies and autos running on the highway and the hard work they do to earn money. That’s what my father has been doing to support my sport. I promised him a medal and this gold medal will be biggest gift for my family,” said Vinka, who scored a 5-0 verdict against Sneha Kumari of Himachal Pradesh in the final.
With her elder sister Monica playing hockey, Vinka too showed interest in that sport at her village Simla Molana near Panipat. After an altercation with a team member over selection, she opted for boxing in 2014 under coach Sunil at Shivaji Stadium, Panipat, where her father would drop her in between his taxi shifts.
Dharmender wanted to get Vinka married as soon as she turned 18, but a gold medal at the first Junior National Championship in Rohtak last year meant those plans were put on hold. It was followed by Vinka’s first international medal – a gold – at the Seventh Nations Cup in Serbia in January this year.
Vinka also triumphed at the School Nationals in Maharashtra and Khelo India Games in Delhi. “Vinka’s elder sister Monica liked hockey and Vinka would accompany her in 2012. I used to run an auto from Panipat to Gharunda daily at that time and as Monica got selected at the Chandigarh Hockey Academy, it meant that I could support Vinka with some money,” her father said.
“Vinka fell from 14 feet when she was eight years old and got 22 stitches in the head. Initially, the doctor advised her not to go for boxing. But she was adamant. In 2014, I sold my auto for Rs 55,000 to support her training. Nowadays, I am a taxi driver with a fixed salary of Rs 10,000. But to support her, I ferry passengers at night too. Initially, I would think about her marriage when she turned 18 but when she won gold in Serbia, she asked me for only one gift, not to think about her or her sister’s marriage for the next five years.”
Raj Sahiba got into the sport after watching Vijender Singh and Mary Kom on television and the youngster would force her father Satyavan to shift to Bhiwani from Hansi in 2016 to train at the famous Bhiwani Boxing Club under coach Jagdish Singh. While Satyavan runs a private taxi, Sahiba’s selection at NBA, Rohtak would mean that the family could save some money.
A gold at the first junior nationals in Rohtak was followed by the 70Kg title in the 7th Nations Cup in Serbia in January this year. This year, Sahiba claimed the silver at the 13th Silesian Boxing Championship in Poland before defeating Arundhati Chaudhary, adjudged Asia’s best junior boxer in an online poll by Asian Boxing Confederation last week, in the 70Kg final on Tuesday.
“I wanted to box as I wanted to emulate what Vijender sir has achieved. My family had to shift to Bhiwani to support me, even though it meant that he had to drive a taxi there. Learning under Jagdish sir made me realise how tough the sport is but when I was selected in NBA, Rohtak, it was a big relief for the family,” shares Sahiba.
Indian junior women’s team coach Amanpreet Kaur has seen both boxers from close and believes their determination will take them further. “Vinka is a rusher and her strength is her power. She does not give up easily and even if she makes a mistake in a bout, she bounces back. Raj Sahiba can hold her guard and is as steady as one can get. The win against Arundhati in the final would give her a lot of confidence,” Kaur said.