There is an old saying — where there’s a will there’s a way. Upasha Talukdar, a 12-year-old gymnast from Assam seems to have proved it right.
Upasha recently won three medals – one silver and two bronze – in rhythmic all-around competition and in Ball and Rope routines of gymnastics at the ongoing Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati. And despite the lack of basic infrastructure and coaches for gymnastics in Assam, Upasha says it was YouTube videos of some of the best gymnasts of the world that helped her in training.
“Initially, I didn’t know much about rhythmic gymnastics. So I started watching YouTube videos of some of my favourite gymnasts from whom I learned a lot of techniques. That was the beginning,” Upasha said while speaking to the The Federal at Bhogeswari Phukanani Indoor stadium in Guwahati.
She says watching videos of gymnasts including Anna Bessonova, Ekaterina Serebrianskaya and Tamara Yerofieieva from Ukraine, Katsiaryna Halkina from Belarus and Irina Tchachina, Yevgeniya Kanayeva and Alina Kabaeva from Russia helped her get her moves right in the initial days.
After a brief training in Punjab and Maharashtra in rhythmic gymnastics, she and her father started looking for a full-time coach on Facebook.
“My father found a person from Russia who is training to be a gymnastics coach, on Facebook. She helped me with the routines and that’s how I trained,” Upasha added.
Dream to make Assam proud
Upasha took up gymnastics when she was in Class III, a random pick when her father offered her various options in sports that she could pursue. “Somehow, I wasn’t really kicked by any of the options before me. Gymnastics alone looked a little inviting, especially as I thought of the things gymnasts did with their bodies during competitions,” said Upasha, now a student of Class VII student of Maharishi Vidya Mandir School.
“I always wanted to win medals for Assam. It’s great to have won the medals in the Khelo India Games, especially as it is taking place in Guwahati. The Maharashtra team is very strong and to win the medal competing with them is really special. In future, I would like to win gold,” Upasha said.
Upasha, has already won several medals in CBSE games and other national level tournaments.
Her father Nikunja Talukdar, a businessman, who introduced her to the sport in 2017 is a proud dad.
“It is very satisfying to see her win. But the credit goes to her for being so dedicated in the sports. She always practises for at least five hours every day, even under trying circumstances. She may have won bronze, but it is equivalent to gold for us,” Talukdar told The Federal.
Talukdar said he introduced Upasha to sports so that she doesn’t get addicted to mobile phone or video games.
“She instantly took a liking to gymnastics. But as there was no proper coaching facilities in rhythmic gymnastics, she began watching the moves on YouTube. We had no options. I just couldn’t see her sitting idle. It was a challenge for me too. But YouTube helped in a great way in the beginning. I had to struggle a lot to get in touch with coaches and get the facilities,” he added.
At present, Assam lack basic infrastructure for gymnastics. Zakir Hussain Gymnasium was the only centre for gymnastics in the state, but after it was dismantled before the 2007 national games and no replacement was made in its place.
“We don’t even have a proper hall for practice,” said Assam coach Ghanajyoti Das.