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Asian Games

Having won 2 battles, Roshibina Devi now wants to stop a war

Roshibina Devi, who won a silver in Wushu at the Asian Games to equal the country's best result in the sport, dedicates her medal to the nameless people protecting her home in Manipur.

Having won 2 battles, Roshibina Devi now wants to stop a war

Roshibina Devi (in red) in action at the Asian Games (AGNS)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 28 Sep 2023 6:08 PM GMT

Hangzhou: Roshibina Devi caused an unusual scene at the Asian Games in China on Thursday morning as she stole the limelight with her silver medal in wushu despite an intense day in more mainstream sports like shooting. This was India's 23rd medal at this year's Asian Games, the first in wushu - a Chinese martial art.

The 22-year-old lost the women’s 60kg final to the Chinese gold medallist Xiaowei Wu on a unanimous verdict, but there were some bigger wins that she has achieved over the last week. The silver medal equals India's best finish at the sport at the Asian Games, the toughest stage for the sport.

"I feel okay to have won a silver. I'm a little sad that I couldn't win gold. I gave it my all to come back in the 2nd round, but it wasn't enough. Everybody makes mistakes. Winning and losing is a part of it. I will do even better the next time and bring home a gold medal for the country. Their support and blessings have brought me here today, so thank you to all of you," Roshibina said after her final.

The first battle she won was in bringing into the spotlight an obscure sport, such that even though there was a huge crowd of Indian journalists at her gold medal match, one of the most common questions asked to her was on her plans for the Olympics. Ironically, wushu has never been a competitive sport at the Olympics, as the athlete reminded everybody with a patient smile.

The second battle she won was to get the Indian flag to flutter on the victory ceremony in a sport traditionally dominated by China. During her match, there was a vociferous home crowd shouting out her opponent's name, drowning out the few weak attempts at Indian encouragement. Even the volunteers outside the Xiaoshan Guali Sports Centre, usually ever-attentive to their duties, were seen rapt in attention on the TV screens outside.

All eyes in China were on the wushu gold medal match between Roshibina Devi and Xiaowei Wu on Thursday morning.

But the 22-year-old said she has a bigger battle on her mind.

Breaking down in front of reporters, revealing the agony she has been silently carrying around with her, she said, "I cannot help out in the war in Manipur. Those who are fighting, protecting my home, I dedicate my medal to them. My appeal for peace has no value I know, but I wish things return to the way they were, the fires that are burning go out," Roshibina Devi said through tears.

The daughter of a farmer in Manipur's Bishnupur district, Roshibina has not been allowed by her coaches to speak to her family every day for the past few months as they were worried the tension would distract her from training.

"I don't get to go home at all. The last time I met my family was when my father came to visit me at the SAI Imphal hostel in June. Even now, I cannot return to my village, it is to the hostel I shall return," she said.

"I am allowed to speak to my family only on Sundays. I get busy with practice too, that's how my mind is occupied. Yesterday, I spoke to them, and they wished me well, and told me, 'Achhe se khelo'."

Roshibina, like many young kids in Manipur, had tried her hand at boxing in her earliest years. Her destiny, however, was set in stone when she saw wushu at a district competition and decided she liked that sport better. Wushu is a combat sport that incorporates elements from boxing as well as kickboxing, wrestling, and grappling.

Though only 22, Roshibina has been a trailblazer for wushu in India already. She broke through with a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in 2016. At the 2018 Asian Games, at the age of just 17, she won a bronze medal. Then too she had lost to Chinese opponent Cai Yingying.

"My next target is the Wushu World Championships in the USA in November. I will give it my all to train for it," she concluded.

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