She is just a small fish from a big pond, but this young judoka is destined for a great future. Judo is not as popular like other sports in the country, but 16-year-old Thangjam Tababi Devi is all set for a bright future in the sport after medal-winning effort in the ongoing Youth Olympic Games at Buenos Aires in Argentina.
It has been a long journey for the 16-year-old youth Olympic silver medallist. In 2010, Tababi, at an early age of eight, was chosen as one of the 50 trainees at the academy. She would train under coaches A. Sorjit Meitei, Surachandra Singh and A. Rupachandra Singh.
She may have have joined as a trainee at the academy but it was only after she heard about other great Arjuna awardee judokas from the region, Olympians Anita Devi and Tombi Devi that the young girl decided that sports will only help her earn and can change her family’s life.
Tababi got her first national medal, a gold, at the sub-junior nationals in Bihar in 2016 and after that there was no stopping her. She won a gold medal at the Asian Cadet Championships in Kyrgyzstan before becoming the junior and cadet champion at this year’s nationals in Jalandhar. She repeated her gold-winning feat at the Asian Cadet Championships in May this year before winning the gold at the Cadet Asian Cup in Kazakhstan which sealed her spot for the youth Olympics.
This young Manipuri girl not only made the country proud, but also her parents and village. The parents of the 16-year-old live in a village called Kokchai Makha Leikai in Manipur’s Mayang.
Her achievement comes after all the sacrifices made by her parents. Tababi Devi father, Thangjam Thoiba Singh, is a daily wage labourer, while her mother Thangjam Ongbi Kamala Devi is a fish vendor.
Speaking to Indian Express after her daughter’s achievement, Kamla Devi said “Gold ka bola tha. Coaches bata rahe hain ki silver aya hai. Hamare liye toh silver bhi gold ke barabar hai” [(They had said gold. The coaches said she won silver. For us, a silver is as good as gold)].
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Tababai’s parents who had to face issues; having no money for dinner. But her mother ensured that her daughter had food to eat by keeping a fish or two aside for her.
“When she started judo, sometimes we did not have money for dinner. I would keep one or two fishes on the side for her. This meant little or no profit on certain days. Both of us earned Rs 240 today and we will keep part of this money as a gift for her.”
While the family celebrates her victory, they also had to feast the whole village after her daughters achievement. It looked liked another obstacle for the family with the amount of money they earn from their daily work, but their problems were taken care by the academy where her daughter trains. “I have been told that every trainee from the academy will bring 1 or 2 kg of rice for the village celebration,” says her father Thoiba.