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India’s first female Judoka to compete at the Olympics

The story of Lourembam Brojeshori Devi, Manipur's staggeringly inspiring Olympic judoka who died at the mere age of 32.

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With all the glamour surrounding the death of a star in India at present, the consensus that many people reached is that life is short. Its unpredictable nature makes it quite fleeting and you never know what circumstances are going to drop upon you next.

Such was the case with Lourembam Brojeshori Devi, Manipur’s staggeringly inspiring Olympic judoka who died at the mere age of 32.

If you’re wondering why you have not heard her name before, there may be several factors to give rise to that. For one, she is from Manipur; a region so far removed from the rest of India that its hidden treasures continue to elude us.

Also read: From beating Milkha Singh to losing a leg: The downfall of an Olympian

It is only now that Manipur and indeed the rest of the North East has started to get some recognition as the country’s sporting hub. This reputation has become possible over time particularly due to the contribution of athletes like Brojeshori.

The other factor which abets her virtual anonymity is the sport she was associated with. The martial arts, at the Olympics, has never been a wide medal-producing sphere for India. But there are some who still carry on their association with disciplines like Judo, Wushu, and Pencak Silat. That’s what keeps these arts alive.

Source: E-pao

In 2000, 19-year old Lourembam Brojeshori Devi became India’s first female Judoka to compete at the Olympics. Keeping this context in mind, the Sydney Olympics in 2000 were indeed a historical landmark for the country.

Born on 1st January 1981, Brojeshori hailed from Khagempalli Huidrom Leikai in Imphal West of Manipur. She was the daughter of Lourembam Manglem Singh and Lorembam Ongbi Taruni Devi.

It has been reported that Brojeshori faced stiff opposition from her family when it came to her association with Judo. The thing about passion is that it refuses to waver even in the face of all odds. Such was the case with Brojeshari. She went against her parents’ wishes to pursue her dreams.

It may be remembered here that hailing from a remote area, the stigma she faced was all the more worse. Maybe, people like us, sitting in the middle of our suburban lives, will never be able to comprehend the courage it took for a little girl in Imphal to stand up for herself.

Nevertheless, she began her training at an early age and started participating in Judo competitions. One story goes that she would often wear her phanek by to cover her sports dress so that her parents would not know about her training.

All that determination bore fruit. In her career, she participated in 20 international and 16 national judo championships. From there, she bagged three golds at the international level in addition to one silver and three bronzes.

And then came the biggest test of them all. Th Olympics. While one may not expect a young 19-year old to stand, shoulder-to-shoulder and provide adequate competition to people who grew up in the land of Judo, Brojeshari proved them wrong.

Also read: A tale of two Olympians: When Ashwini Nachappa outran PT Usha

She had participated in the Women’s Half-Lightweight category in the 2000 Olympic Games and reached the Semi-Finals before losing out to against Liu Yuxiang of China.

In 2013, Lourembam Brojeshori Devi died of excessive internal bleeding due to pregnancy complications in Coimbatore while taking part in a 10-week training camp. She was 32.

They say that if you have dreams, they must be bigger than your fears. There are lives which are short-but in that short span they burn so bright that they illuminate lives around them. Lourembam Brojeshari Devi was one such life.

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