Government must help young injured wrestlers, says Pooja Dhanda

Updated: Apr 26, 2020, 08:04 IST | Subodh Mayure | Mumbai

Pooja Dhanda recalled suffering a knee ligament injury during training in Lucknow in 2015 and struggling with treatment for the next two years

India wrestler Pooja Dhanda
India wrestler Pooja Dhanda

India wrestler Pooja Dhanda, 26, has battled quite a few injuries in her career so far and knows how tough it is, especially for young wrestlers, to cope with the financial strain. That's the reason she wants the government to take care of budding grapplers during their injury phase.

"If a top-level athlete gets injured, he or she has sponsors to help in the comeback. However, it is very difficult for junior wrestlers to manage injuries without the support of sponsors. I feel the government should step in to help such youngsters needing treatment and rehab facilities. After all, these are your potential medal-winners in the future," says Dhanda, who won a bronze medal [57kg freestyle] at the prestigious World Championships in Budapest in 2018.

Tough times

Dhanda recalled suffering a knee ligament injury during training in Lucknow in 2015 and struggling with treatment for the next two years. "Currently I'm sponsored by JSW, but back then I had no financial support whatsoever. Those two years were tough. I got the knee surgery [by Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala] and subsequent rehabilitation [under physiotherapist Dr Ashish [Kaushik] done in Mumbai and it was difficult for my family to manage the frequent to and fro travel costs," revealed Dhanda, a silver medallist (60kg freestyle) at the Youth Olympics Games in Singapore in 2010.

"Generally, it's the middle-class or lower middle-class kids, who take to sports like wrestling, kabaddi and boxing. They are not financially well off, so any injury needing expensive treatment can end promising careers. I feel, at least cadet or junior level medal-winners should get government support in these situations," added Dhanda, who was again laid low by injury in 2019 and had given up on the 2020 Tokyo Games before it got postponed to 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Online learning

In lockdown at home in Hisar, Haryana she is currently taking online lessons from women's national coach Andrew Cook of USA. "He [Cook] shares videos of the top wrestlers and we discuss technique and strategy accordingly. My aim is to not just qualify for Tokyo 2021 but to also win a medal there," said Dhanda, who bagged silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

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