The Indian women’s wrestling team has now recorded their best-ever performance at the Asian Wrestling Championships with a tally of 8 medals. In all the previous editions of the Asian Wrestling Championships, India had won just a single gold medal — through Navjot Kaur in the women’s 65 kg event in 2018 — in the women’s competition. However, Indian women won an unprecedented three gold medals and finished off with a total of eight medals.
Among all the women medallions, it was a special feat for two of the wrestlers — Gursharan Preet Kaur in the (Bronze in 57 KG) and Nirmala Devi (Silver in 50 KG).
For Gursharan, her career has received new vigour. Her story of returning to wrestling is one of immense hardship and unimaginable trauma. She was banned for nine months by the National Anti-Doping Agency after a failed dope test in 2013 and later married a Punjab Police constable who was a drug addict.
She stayed away from the mat just to please her in-laws. Despite numerous atrocities, she remained tight-lipped for more than three years. Her in-laws wanted a son, but when her daughter was born, they started beating her up regularly and kicked her out of the house. When her husband gave her an ultimatum of choosing between him and her daughter, Gursharan fled from her in-laws’ house with her daughter and started staying with her own mother.
To earn money for her daughter’s upbringing, the 36-year-old made her return to wrestling and started her training at Punjab Police Academy, Jalandhar in May 2018. In December last year, Gursharan won the 76kg gold at the South Asian Games, her first international medal in seven years.
Despite becoming national champion in 2001, 35-year-old Nirmala Devi could never make the Olympic cut. Ankle surgery in 2011 saw her not compete for almost two years, with the 2012 Olympics passing by. In 2016, it was Vinesh Phogat who was one to represent India in 48kg.
Nirmala participated in every event she could. She won gold in the 2007 Commonwealth Championship. She bagged silver in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She continued her good show in Commonwealth Championship, finishing on top of the podium on a couple of occasions. She is still going strong and chasing her dreams keeping everything aside.
Nirmala, a 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, lost 2-3 to Igarashi in the summit clash. The Haryana wrestler had defeated Mongolia’s Munkhnar Byambasuren 6-4 and Uzbeskitan’s Dauletbike Yakhshimuratova by technical superiority in the earlier rounds.