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Top 10 Indian Judokas of all time

Top 10 Indian Judokas of all time

C.C. Chengappa

Published: 5 Feb 2021 6:40 AM GMT

Judo has never been India’s forte at international sporting events. However, there have been several athletes who have brought home laurels for the country despite the lack of support and recognition for sports such as Judo. We take a look at ten such Judokas who have performed exceptionally well for the country.

Cawas Bilimoria

One of the first few Indian judokas who represented India at an Olympic event, Cawas Bilimoria took part in the 1992 Sydney Olympics in the men’s heavyweight event. He was the Indian national champion from 1984 to 1993 and has won various medals at the Asian Games(1986), South Asian Judo tournament, and the Commonwealth Judo tournaments as well. Cawas Bilimoria is also the holder of the prestigious Black Belt and has been conferred with the Arjuna Award as well for his contributions to the sport both nationally and internationally.

Narendra Singh

Narendra Singh is another judoka stalwart in India who made great strides in his career. He also won a bronze medal at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games in the 60kg category. Apart from this, he is the first Indian judoka to have represented India in two Olympics which were the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1999 and thereafter began working with the Punjab Police. However, a mishap and a misreported accusation led to him being charged with murder in 2013 and he was suspended thereafter. Narendra Singh Tomar committed suicide in 2016 after being discharged by the police despite never having been convicted or reinstated.

Avtar Singh

Cawas Bilimoria and Avtar Singh Cawas Bilimoria and Avtar Singh

Avtar Singh is one of the promising judokas that India has produced in the past decade or so. He competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil and has more or less always been in the Men's 100kg category. He won gold in 2016 at the South Asian Games and reached the semifinals of the Asian Judo championships held the same year. Both these results helped him take his world ranking from 200 to 79 and thereby he secured a quote place to compete at the Olympics.

Akram Shah

He came up through the ranks of the Central Reserve Police Force and has won several medals in the All India Police Games throughout his career. Competing in the extra lightweight category, he finished an impressive 9th position at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and has also been awarded the Arjuna Award. Among his many accolades, he has a Gold in South Asian Games, Commonwealth Games silver, and a bronze in the Asian Judo Championships.

Garima Chaudhary

Lack of support from her home state Uttar Pradesh was not enough to deter her from competing nationally. Currently representing Haryana, she has been training at the National Institute of Sports, Punjab since 2004 and has continuously been taking part in various world tournaments. She took part in the 2011 World Championships in Paris and thereafter at the Asian Championships in 2012 which allowed her to qualify for the Olympics the same year. She was India’s sole competitor at the 2012 London Olympics where she was knocked out in the first round but her performances made Indian sports coaches and administrators retain her for the subsequent Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian Games.

Tababi Devi

She became the first Indian Judoka to win a medal at an Olympic event when she won silver in the 44kg category at the 2018 Youth Olympics, Buenos Aires. She has gone on to win a gold in the Asian Cadet Championships and has dominated her category at the National Championships as well. Tababi Devi's story is inspirational, to say the least. Her parents suffered a lot to support her Judoka journey. They continuously took loans and were in deep debt during her childhood but pushed Tababi to pursue her judoka career. This has paid huge dividends for Tababi who is the top-ranked judoka in her age and weight category in India. She is one for the future and will be looking forward to a podium finish at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Lourembam Devi

One of the several elite sportsmen and women to have come from the state of Manipur, she was the only female Indian judoka at the 2000 Summer Olympics where she reached the semi-finals. She, unfortunately, lost out on winning a bronze medal. She won Gold Medals at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Championships and won several medals during her career at the 16 National Events she competed in. After retirement, she took up coaching and unfortunately passed away in 2013 owing to certain medical complications.

Kalpana Devi

An individual who has served in the Indo Tibetian Border Police Force as a constable, Kalpana Devi has had a formidable Judo career. She began by winning a silver in 1998 at the sub-junior National championships before going on to win 4 gold medals at subsequent junior national championships. Thereafter, her international career took off with gold medals at the Asian Judo Championships, International Judo Championships in 2010, and Gold at the Commonwealth Judo Championships in the same year. She is also a history maker who became the first-ever Indian to win a medal at the prestigious IJF Grand Prix at Uzbekistan. Her medal tally also includes a bronze won at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Sushila Likambam

She came extremely close to winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the women's 48 kg category but lost out in a well contested final. Her reputation precedes her and she was also one of the 5 Indian judokas who as chosen to represent India at the Budapest Grand Slam in 2020. One of the continual points of emphasis that Sushila has reiterates publicly is that Judo needs continuous support from the government. She has been very vocal about this call especially from the perspective of ensuring there is adequate monetary compensation and opportunities provided for young and aspiring judoka.

Navjot Chana

Another prolific athlete who hails from the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab Navjot Channa brought home a silver medal from the Commonwealth Games in 2014. He had the option of competing for England several years ago as his father is a British Citizen however he chose to continue plying his trade with India. He regularly competes in the 60 kg category at National and International events and has like his judoka teammates, won multiple accolades at the national level. He recently decided not to continue with Judo after 2020 after being continuously overlooked for the Arjuna Award despite applying for it time and again and putting in stellar performances since 2007.

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