Wushu, like many other games, holds a low-profile path in India over the years. The martial art has been contributing to the medals tally for India successively since the last four Asian Games. So far, India has won a silver and eight bronze medals in Asian Games. Late Sri Anand Kacker brought the game in India in 1989. It instantly became popular all over the country. Wushu Association of India was officially established in the same year. India made it Wushu debut at the 2006 Asian Games. India has also put up some interesting performances at the World Championships. The 15th edition of World Championships in 2019 has so far seen the best performance by India, where they won two gold, one silver and one bronze medals. One of the stalwarts of the sport, hailing from Haryana’s Jhajjar district, Poonam Khatri, has claimed World Championship status after her silver medal at the Wushu World Championship last year was upgraded to a Gold medal.
She was initially placed second in the 75kg women’s sanda event at the worlds in October 2019. She had lost the final to Iranian opponent Mariyam but after Mariyam recently failed the dope test, the gold medal has been awarded to Poonam.
“It is a huge honour for me. It only makes my memories of the World Championship sweeter. Coming back after pregnancy was tough. My daughter has been my biggest inspiration,” said Poonam in an interview with The Bridge.
The 34-year-old dons many roles together as an athlete, police and also a mother. She has a three-year-old daughter named Paridhi. Though she was out of action for months because of pregnancy, she came back with a bang. “It was very difficult to make a return after pregnancy, but once you are committed to your goals, there shouldn’t be any turning back. I started training after 3 months of giving birth to my child. I was feeling low but my coach Gulshan Sir helped me a lot and he groomed me well. Slowly I became conditioned and got back my form,” says Poonam.
Born in Soldha village of Jhajjar, Poonam took to sports in her childhood. Since her school days, Poonam was actively participating in Kho-Kho, kabaddi. She has also tried her hands in Taekwondo and boxing. “I was in school and was playing all sorts of sports. My cousin was learning wushu at that moment. And I got interested in the sport. I asked her and she only trained me in wushu in 2002,” says Poonam.
Many don’t know that Poonam got a job through sports quota in the Sashastra Seema Bal, an arm of India’s Central Armed Police Forces, and has won medals at all-India police boxing tournaments. She also won a gold medal at the 2013 World Police Games in boxing.
The seven-time Senior National Wushu Championships gold medallist, Khatri admits that managing her personal life has been a challenge and that her husband and family have been very supportive. Her husband, Manjeet, is also her manager.
“I have received a lot of support from my husband, my parents and in-laws,” she says.
The lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus has left Poonam restricted to her camp in Delhi, where she is staying in quarantine after two of her teammates were tested positive with COVID. “I have been training for my next challenges. However, things look uncertain now. I was supposed to participate in the Wushu World Cup in Australia and Asian Championships in India, both of which were supposed to happen in November this year,” says Poonam.
When asked about her future plans, Poonam quips, “I wish to open my own academy, so that more youngsters can pursue this sport and make this sport popular in India.”