Daughter of a driver, Aruna Singh Tanwar to be India's first para taekwondo player to take part in Paralympics
The 21-year-old Haryanvi beats the odds and aims to make her country proud with a podium finish
Aruna Singh Tanwar created history after becoming the first para-taekwondo player from India to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics. She qualified after being one of the eight athletes to get a bipartite quota. Hailing from Dinod village near the Bhiwani district, Aruna's journey from a small part of Haryana to shining at the international stage is an inspirational one of persistence and determination against the odds.
Aruna's father, Naresh Kumar, works as a driver with a chemical factory to help his family make ends meet. Her qualification for the Paralympics helped the proud father forget about the hardships he faces daily momentarily.
"Since her birth, when Aruna suffered deformity in both her hands, we have treated Aruna like other children and have supported her life as a normal person. While I struggled financially, I took loans apart from spending our savings to support her dreams. It's her willpower and eagerness to compete among the best, which has resulted in her getting selected for the Tokyo Paralympics, and there cannot be a bigger joy for us to see our daughter compete in Tokyo and win a medal for India," said an emotional Naresh Kumar in an interview to TNIE.
Her parents were a huge pillar of support for Aruna as they encouraged her to pursue her dreams despite various obstacles such as her disability, financial support and social stigmas.
"She never complained about it, rather she practised harder to overcome the physical barriers and convert them into a tool to be used in the martial art. With her selection for Paralympics, Aruna will now become a role model for many, especially girls who are not given equal opportunity in comparison to boys in India by their parents to showcase their inner talent and get empowered," said Aruna's mother, Sonia, in an interview with The Print.
The 21-year-old Haryanvi almost lost the opportunity of a lifetime as the Indian taekwondo team missed the World and Asian qualifiers held in Jordan for the Paralympics due to the travel restrictions imposed post the pandemic.
"When we missed competing in the world and Asian qualifiers in Jordan due to the travel ban due to the pandemic, I was a bit frustrated, but I had a belief that my world ranking would help me get the quota. To get a chance to compete in Tokyo is the biggest motivation for me, and I will aim to win a medal in Tokyo," shared Aruna, reports TNIE.
Aruna started her journey in taekwondo after opting for mixed martial arts when coach Robin Singh visited the government school at her village for a training camp in 2008. The youngster quickly learnt the ropes and proved to herself and the rest when she won bronze in the junior category in the SGFI nationals in 2015. She added to her tally by becoming the junior champion at the Junior National Taekwondo Championships in Ballabgarh in the next year. The youngster was not eligible to compete at international events in the normal category, so she decided to compete in the paralympic category.
"I always believed that I could compete against anybody and hence competed in the normal category till 2017. It was only when I was declared not eligible to compete at the international level that I opted to compete in the Paralympics category," said Aruna in an interview with TNIE.
Aruna made her presence felt at the international stage after winning the silver medal at the Asian championships in 2018 and the bronze medal in the World Para-Taekwondo championship. She followed that up with an impressive gold at the Nationals.
"The silver medal in Asian championships in 2018 boosted my confidence, and reaching the semi-finals in the world championships made me believe that I could compete against the world's best. Apart from full support from PTAI, coaches including Ashok Kumar, national coaches Sukhdev Singh and Swaraj sir have been working with me, and I hope to give my best," said Aruna.
Her coach Ashok Kumar has been full of praise for Aruna's work ethic and believes that she has the opportunity to win a medal after tireless hours of dedication put in by her to hone her technique.
"Since her early days in the sport, she has had the flexibility to excel as a taekwondo player. We worked on her balance, endurance and strength. In Tokyo, she will face a challenge from Ukraine, China and Chinese Taipei players, and we are hopeful that she can get past them," said coach Ashok Kumar, reports TNIE.
"She is the first Taekwondo athlete from India to qualify for the Paralympics. This has opened the doors for all the aspiring athletes, especially all the female athletes that want to be in this position," said the president of Indian Taekwondo, Namdev Shirgaonkar.
"We are extremely proud of Aruna and are hopeful for a podium finish. India Taekwondo has recommended her name for TOPS (Target Olympics Podium Scheme) for the extended necessary support to make the dream of a Paralympic medal a reality," he added.