Young Shauryajit hopes to fulfill his father’s dream

Shauryajit Khaire, 10, wowed everyone with his moves in Mallakhamb during the 36th National Games in Ahmedabad on Friday. However, the roar of applause drowned out Khaire’s internal chaos. Beneath the smile, as he moved fluidly over the pole, rope, and hanging mallakhamb, lay deep sorrow. The boy’s ailing father died on September 30, just as he was preparing for the Games. Khaire wanted to withdraw, but encouraged by his mother and coach, he decided to join.

Shauryajit has lifted the reception he received after a remarkable first round. “I am very proud of so many positive reactions. My father’s dream was to compete in the National Games and win gold; I will comply with that,” he said.

There are still two rounds to go before the gold medal is decided. On his day off on Saturday, he was back home in Vadodara to perform his father’s last rites. He returned to Ahmedabad in the evening for the next rounds starting on Sunday.

“My father (Ranjit Kumar) introduced me to Mallakhamb and told me it is a good sport. I have been training for the past six years. I found it very difficult in the beginning, but gradually I grew to love it,” he said. Khaire has won two bronze medals at the national championships.

His coach Jeet Sapkal said: “It was very difficult to convince him to come to the Games. His mother made it clear to him how he would miss an opportunity to fulfill his father’s wish. It is his mental strength that he cannot only came here, but also performed so well.”

“It was difficult to teach him at the beginning because he was so small and the pole was big for him. But we saw his great talent and interest. During Covid, his father got a pole at home and I trained him there. Now he is so good that he is giving tough competition to the seniors.”

Mallakhamb, introduced in the National Games in this edition, has had a bit of a stir because the government promotes it. The practitioners perform aerial yoga using rope, walking stick and the wooden pole. The sport is popular in many parts of India. Former players also made it abroad. The first World Championships were held in 2019. Khaire wants to win gold at the World Cup.

“Mallkahmab is now entering mainstream sport. We need talent like Shauryajit to move the sport forward,” said Sapkal.

Goa will host the next edition of the National Games in October 2023, the Indian Olympic Association said on Saturday.

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