by Disha Pawar
It is always exhilarating to see one follow their passion despite facing many odds. In India, such a statement will often hold tremendous meaning for every second sportsperson, for it isn’t easy to be one in our country, given the magnitude of competition, lack of basic infrastructure, access to proper diet, parental pressure, so on and so forth. One such dare devil fighting her opponents along with fighting all of the above is a young fencer from Jammu, Akanksha Sabharwal.
Akanksha, a 22-year-old national level fencer, picked up the sport while still in school. Growing up in an army background, she naturally got inclined towards sports from a young age. Like most other athletes, Akanksha too wishes to represent India and make her parents and country proud. India is blessed with a host of talent but most often those get wasted because of lack of opportunities only to eventually be frowned upon for their reckless choices. Akanksha is determined she doesn’t want to be one of those who just tried, she is determined to make her story a success.
Based on the traditional skills of swordsmanship, fencing involves one-on-one combat, for which a player uses a fencing foil (a type of sword) to hit particular targets on the opponent’s body. There are three rounds of 7 minutes each and the gear is fitted with sensors that help in identifying the touch points to facilitate scoring.
Tell us something about your childhood? How and where did you learn the sport?
I was a shy kid in school. I never interacted with kids my age or otherwise but I always enjoyed sports. That’s what I loved doing. I started with playing cricket when I was in 8th grade but eventually my parents stopped me from playing because they feared I may lose focus on academics. However, as soon as I completed my schooling I joined fencing as I really got attracted to the art of this sport. After I got knowledge of the game, there was no turning back. I have since been training at M. A. Stadium in Jammu.
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Were the facilities provided in school, college enough for you to play at competitive level?
The facilities and equipment are always a hurdle in my path to success. Even after having all the facilities, the University doesn’t support us with the apparatus and piste which is the basic necessity for a fencer, we are forced to buy our own equipment. The council doesn’t provide us with individual equipment, not even the cheapest which we can afford. Our complete Chinese kit is of worth 20,000 rupees.
What is scope for athletes in Jammu? Given that all modern facilities and equipment are distributed in the cities.
When we talk about scope for athletes in Jammu, scope varies with the standard of practice and diet provided within the schedule of practice sessions. If the player trains well, gets individual attention of the coach and prescribed diet according to the load given to the player, then there is enough scope. As for the facilities and equipment, they do get provided to the State Sports Council but the players never get them on time.
Who is your inspiration? Anyone you look upto?
Inspirations are always who you like to be and whose standards you want to match up to. I have been blessed with amazing coaches in the form of Shotu Lal sir and Bheesham Singh Slathia. They motivate their students so well that every player wants to make them proud.
If not fencing, what are your other aspirations?
Fencing is my passion, but I am also a rational person. Other than that I am trying to join army, it is difficult to crack the exam but I am certain of making a good future for myself along with carrying on my passion.
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