Divya Kakran: wrestling from the womb!
Ever since breaking on the international stage with a bronze medal win at the Asian Wrestling Championships in 2017, Indian wrestler Divya Kakran has maintained her stranglehold on the women’s 68kg category in the country.
But her journey to the top has been anything but easy.
Hailing from a family of wrestlers, Divya Kakran’s initiation into the sport was an easy one, although her fight to stay in it was daunting, to say the least.
“To be honest I started wrestling when I was in the womb,” she said, sharing her story on an Instagram Live session with wrestler-turned-actor Sangram Singh.
“Coming from a family of wrestlers, it was easy for me to get into the sport. But to stay in it was the difficult part. Be it the elders in my family or the society at large, no one wanted a girl to get into the akhara (wrestling pit),” said the Indian wrestler who hails from Purbaliyan, a village in the Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh.
The societal pressure aside, the grappler had to deal with the opposition from her grandfather, a former wrestler, as well. But through all this, one person who stood by her like a wall was the father -- Suraj.
Determined dad paves the way
A former akhara wrestler himself, Divya Kakran’s father was the one who introduced wrestling to his daughter. And it didn’t take long for him to notice the spark in her.
But with the menial income that he used to earn by selling singlets and other wrestling wear, supporting his daughter’s dream would often prove to be too difficult for Suraj. But the father-daughter duo wouldn’t stop there.
“I remember the days when we could not afford milk and ghee (clarified butter), something that’s basic in a wrestler’s diet,” said the Indian who won a gold medal at the 2020 Asian Wrestling Championships earlier this year.
“But my father was determined. He’d always dreamt of me wrestling at the international stage. And I ensured that every time I was training or competing, I gave my best.
“We would compete in various dangals (mud fights) and use the prize money that we got from there to meet our dietary requirements. And there was also a time my father decided to take a loan from my village people.”
Looking back at those days, Divya Kakran is happy that the initial struggle has paid off. Be it the Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games or the World Championships, the 22-year-old has ensured that she never missed the Indian bus, often returning home with a medal.
But the Indian wrestler realises that job is half done.
“Right now I am focused on preparing for the Olympics and want to give my best,” she stressed, throwing light on her future plans. The selection process is on hold (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) but once it starts I will do my best to get selected.”