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At the age of 40, Wrestler Nirmala Devi harbours an Olympics dream

Nirmala Devi defeated Neelam in the final of the 50 kg final at the Senior Wrestling Nationals to win the title.

At the age of 40, Wrestler Nirmala Devi harbours an Olympics dream

Pritish Raj

Published: 5 Feb 2024 4:31 PM GMT

Jaipur: One of the most used sports slang 'Wily Old Warhorse' came to life when 40-year-old Nirmala Devi pinned down 23-year-old Neelam in the 50 kg final of the senior women's national on Sunday leaving the youngster on her haunches.

A triumphant hand raise and embrace from the coach followed as Nirmala Devi won her 16th medal at the senior national level. It was fascinating for everyone present how quickly the veteran defeated a talented young wrestler.

"I don't know what I would do if not for wrestling," Nirmala told The Bridge after becoming the new 50 kg national champion and shedding a bit of tear.

However, this is not something new for the veteran wrestler. Nirmala has won a total of 16 medals of various colors at the senior level, with her first gold medal dating back to 2002, the same year her opponent Neelam was born.

"My career doesn't have a steady graph and it has been full of ups and downs. I have gone through multiple surgeries. Whenever I had surgeries, it was tough to recover from them. Still, I try to win medals despite the injuries," she said.

"It is tough to come back at this age, especially in the sport of wrestling. I have done more than 12 hours of rehabilitation every day to maintain my body," she added further.

Nirmala returned from knee surgery two years ago and aims to fulfill her old dream of representing India at the Olympics.

"I have just one dream and that is to represent India at the Olympics. Despite playing for so long, I haven't been able to fulfill that for some reason," said Nirmala.

Despite becoming national champion in 2001, Nirmala Devi could never make the Olympic cut.

Injuries in 2008 and ankle surgery in 2011 kept her out of competition for almost two years, causing her to miss the 2012 Olympics. In 2016, it was Vinesh Phogat who represented India in the 48kg category.

“Last time I had an injury just before the Olympic qualifying tournaments. So I could not participate. Hopefully, this time I will make it," Nirmala concluded.

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