In the search of tales of stubbornness and determination, our journey has brought us to the door of the tiny ‘Athletic Angel’ of India. Her hard work and perseverance has shocked the whole world. At the tender age of 9, she has trained her body in a way that huge showmen look tiny in front of her.
Pooja is being supported by the most prestigious sports foundation, ‘Virat Kohli Foundation’ but her journey has not been any less than a war against all odds. Her tale originates from her birth place, a small village named ‘Guda Bishnoian’ near Jodhpur. She stems from the family of a common farmer. Today we will listen to her tale in the words of his coach and uncle ‘Sarwan Budiya’
Sarwan is himself a successful athlete but some physical problems snatched away his game from him. He didn’t accept the defeat, rather he continued his dream by training her niece Pooja from the age of 3. In thicks and thins, in rises and falls, he has been with Pooja.It’s only because of him that Pooja is so close to making the dream of winning an olympic medal come true.
So come with us, and listen to the tale of undetermined hard work behind all of Pooja’s Success. Today we are going to be a part of Pooja’s journey of becoming the ‘Iron Girl’ of India. We will feel those pains and her tireless efforts because it is our aim to ring out the tales of stubbornness that strike the fire of passion in your heart.
Journey from an athlete to a coach
I was born in ‘Guda Bishnoian’. My father is a farmer. I have spent almost all of my life in the streets of our lovely village, that’s why I a, very connected to the soil of our country. Even from childhood, I was more interested in sports than academics. I also had the same dream as all Indian boys have, to once wear the jersey of Indian Cricket Team.
While playing cricket I realised that I have good running speed. Without much resources and coaching, I kept doing hard work on my athletic skills. Gradually I came in the top runners of my city. I didn’t have much resources but only had a fire in my belly to do something great.
As they say, those who try, never fall and that is what happened to me. With my hardwork and the will of the almighty, I was selected for Sports Authority of India(SAI). I trained with SAI for 3 consecutive years. During my training, I met the most famed Indian Athletic coaches. I got a chance to learn from the best in the game. I think that was the time where the seeds of becoming a coach were sown.
I worked very hard in those three years and understood every subtle nuance of Athletics. Each and every day I was growing. My dream was to win an Olympic Medal for my nation and I gave everything I had to chase this dream.
But… Some things are decided by our work and rest lies on our fate. In Spite of such immense hard work, I had to leave the running track. An injury in my ‘Hamstring’, snatched my game away from me but it couldn’t snatch my spirit.
After returning to my home, I was helpless. I had to go towards academics because athletics had already refused me. It is very difficult for an athlete to divert himself from his game. I realised this in a very small age.
In 2011, our family was blessed with a ‘little angel’. With her she brought happiness to our whole family. The angel was Pooja. Little did we know that she was going to become the ‘Athletic Angel of India’ from our little angel.
I always observed that China always topped the charts of every Athletic Event. I was very curious about why this happens. I did a lot of research and found that, in China the kids are rigorously trained from very small ages and then they do not face gigantic issues because the foundation of great practice has already been laid. I was very inspired by this.
When Pooja turned 3, I just asked her to run along the kids who were sitting with us on our farm. Pooja ran with undefinable determination but she couldn’t defeat the kids because they were almost twice her age. I just frivolously announced “तीन महीने है तुम्हारे पास, तीन महीने बाद पूजा तुम सबको यही हराएगी | ”
I saw an indispensable spirit in Pooja and I felt the fire in her eyes for defeating everyone. She just needed guidance so I decided to train her. That’s how my journey as a coach kicked off.
On Your Marks
For the next three months, Pooja and I did immense hard work. Sometimes Pooja’s hard work would even shock me. When a three old girl left the dolls to do fiery hard work then my blood also boiled for accomplishing the dream I had left . I pledged to not to leave a single effort on my side.
While training Pooja, I never kept in mind that I was training a girl. I always gave her the grinding training, I would have given to a boy.
In our country we always make our daughters believe that the boys are stronger than them, they have more physical strength. If we bind an elephant with a strong chain from his childhood, he starts believing that he can never break through. Same way we bind the chain of physical incapability in our girls’ feet.
That’s why they start to believe that the boys are stronger than them. I never let Pooja have any such thought. I always made her believe that boys can be defeated the same way she girls can be.
After grinding hard work for three months when the test day came Pooja defeated every boy and girl there who were almost double her age. This small victory made Pooja so competitive that she didn’t even need my encouragement. Now she would come to me and ask me to go for training.
We started training every morning from 3 AM. I trained Pooja to do those exercises that the kids of her age couldn’t even think about doing. Her mother and father also supported and I am very glad that despite being from a conservative background they never stopped their daughter from training. They even encouraged her to do everything she could.
Now we encountered a wall that every person who stems from a low financial background but chases his dreams encounters, “The Wall of Finances” . Along with good training, athletes need a balanced diet too. If you do not manage your diet then be sure of not getting any gains even if you do all the training in the world. It was very difficult for me to buy the things that Pooja needed for her growth because I didn’t have a source of income.
I started to do a part time job at a grocery shop in the afternoon, so that I could buy the essentials that Pooja needed. When I used to see Pooja on the track I got more and more motivated because she did more hard work than even I could do.
Outside the track, Pooja and I were really naughty but on the ground she was an athlete and I, a coach. I always taught her to be really focussed on the game and at such a little age she understood it and followed every instruction I gave religiously. I believe that for an athlete there is no bigger worship than his game and no bigger temple than the playground.
Pooja also started participating in various competitions. She never marked herself lower than any one, she also went on the track to win. Pooja either won or learnt, the word ‘loss’ was not even in her dictionary.
When Pooja turned 5, a new athlete joined us on the ground. He was none other than Pooja’s own brother Kuldeep. Kuldeep also started at the age of 3. These two trained in lack of resources and facilities and yet they did tireless hard work day in day out.
Pooja and Kuldeep both train with indispensable determination. We used to wake up at 3 in the morning and did hard training till 7 AM. At 7 they left for school and studied there till 2 in the noon. After coming back from school, we start their training from 4 PM and we don’t even think of breaks while training.
By training these two I also started coming closer to my dream. Now my eyes had the dream of seeing Pooja win an Olympic Medal for our country. Meanwhile I started posting various videos of Pooja’s hard work on social media.
I used to post photos and videos of exercises which will make anyone viewing the video awestruck. At the age of 5 she did exercises that most adults couldn’t even think about doing. On Facebook and Instagram we had started a new journey.
On the other hand Pooja and Kuldeep both won in various athletics competitions and gradually we started to catch the eyes of our local community. In this series, we reached state level competitions and even there Pooja’s talent was unmatched. She was the best in her ‘Age Group.’
At the age of 6, she started participating in National Level Competitions. She started winning medals after medals and broke many records. Our continuous hard work for 3 years started
to pay off.
I started preparing Pooja for “Jodhpur Marathon.” It was time for Pooja’s training to go up a notch. We worked on both speed and stamina and grew it day by day with determination.
Along with Physical Strengths, it is important for an athlete to have mental perseverance and a will to never give up. So with small talks I used to prepare Pooja to be fearless and believe in her hard work.
At the age of 7, she achieved an enormous milestone by covering a distance of 10 KMS in just 48 minutes.She made history. Her amazing feat became an Asian Record and at the age of 7 when kids only care about their homeworks Pooja had become a record holder. We were very cherished by the results and yet we kept our hunger to progress lit.
Our routine became more rigorous and disciplined. It is very important for us to go higher than what we were yesterday. If we don’t go higher and higher then people will regard our initial success as flukes. That’s why I always make Pooja to train harder each day to become better than what she was yesterday.
After achieving the Asian Record our next bullseye was the World Record. Bleak Winters, scorching summers and unstoppable rains came but we never missed training and Pooja also never complained. Pooja’s training and hard work started to have a class in it because she knew she was competing against herself.
After the asain record, Pooja once again shocked the whole world with another gigantic achievement. In a national level athletic event, Pooja ran 3 KMS in just 12 minute 30 seconds and became the first ‘Under 10 ’ athlete to do so.
On the other hand Pooja’s videos started to trend all over the social media. I also started to learn the nuances of using social media. I am a die hard fan of Virat Kohli sir, so I started to atag him and his managers in my posts. These videos made us visible to the top level stars and gradually Pooja became an ‘Internet Sensation.’
Through Instagram we were acknowledged by the Virat Kohli Foundation. I started getting messages and well wishes from Virat Sir’s managers. They were completely shocked by Pooja’s level of fitness and why wouldn’t they because Pooja had actually done things that could make anyone be awestruck.
In 2019, Pooja was selected by the Virat Kohli Foundation. When I broke the news to Pooja’s family, I saw the tears of happiness in her mother Mima and his father Ashok’s eyes.
When we were invited to Mumbai for honoring Pooja with a scholarship, I was just dumbstruck. Every harsh moment that Pooja and I had spent on the track, every injury she incurred just flashed before my eyes. As her coach I went to Mumbai.
When her name was announced amongst the most talented athletes of India my heart just started to thump as if it was going to explode. When Pooja stood on the stage in between the two greatest personalities of our nation Amitabh Bacchan Sir and Virat Kohli Sir then I lost my control and tears just rolled down my eyes.
After being associated with the Virat Kohli Foundation, Pooja got each and every supplement, training equipment that was necessary for her growth. As a result, at the age of 8, she achieved ‘Six Pack Abs’ and became the Youngest Asian Female to achieve the milestone.
She is also the youngest amongst the athletes associated with the Virat Kohli Foundation so she gets to learn a lot from the seasoned athletes associated with the foundation. This has helped her grow.
Today I also feel that I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders as now Pooja is the pride of our nation and it is my duty to enable her to ,more and more for our country. I am proud that I am doing this.
Aiming to Conquer the World N
Now Pooja and I both have a single dream in our eyes that we see not while we sleep but when we are sweating on the track; “Winning a medal in the Youth Olympics of 2024.”
We work hard day in day out towards this dream.
You must have a question in your mind that “How am I so confident of her victory?” the answer lies in the fact that Pooja runs 3 KMS in 12 minutes and the Youth Olympic record for 3 KMS is 9 minutes. So we can say that these 3 minutes are standing like a wall against us but will break through it, I am sure.
Even when a fatal disease like COVID 19 has enveloped the whole world, we didn’t stop. We made a track in our farms and both Pooja and Kuldeep are given their 1000%. Our training is going to higher levels everyday and yet they are coping up well.
We have never stopped till date and we are not going to stop in future too.
A Message to All the Parents
After training from a young age of 3, I learnt that there is a lot that we subconsciously pass on to our children which might not even be true. While working hard on the track Pooja learned to never underestimate herself against boys and rather to take them as her competitors.
Similarly, if we stop binding our daughters with chains of physical incapability, then see how our nation will leave everyone behind and be the most powerful nation in the world. Our daughters are not less than anyone, if anything they are better than boys in many aspects. If we start to give equal opportunities to our daughter then only we will be able to proudly say “‘मेरा देश बदल रहा है ,आगे बढ रहा है’”
I also want to add something that if your kid is good at sports then let him play, because athletes like Pooja have shown that the phrase “पढोगे लिखोगे बनोगे नवाब, खेलोगे ,कूदोगे तो बनोगे ख़राब ” is just another captivating lie that we all believe in.
I want to add that “खेलोगे , पढोगे चाहे जो भी करोगे , अगर मेहनत करोगे तो रचोगे इतिहास”
So stubborn people this was the story of the “Athletic Angel of India. ” She has not only made her family but our whole nation proud. She has helped our nation to get global recognition for having young talented athletes.
Pooja and Sarwan are living examples of “Where there’s will there’s a way.” They have achieved so much in such a shortage of resources and funds that it makes us believe that we can also take our lives to any height with hard work.
We should also learn from their unmatched determination and light a fire in our bellies to become the best at whatever we do. We should all engrave in our minds that “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work .”
With this message we will be taking your leave. We will be back again with another tale of unparalleled stubbornness till then
Stay passionate, Stay Stubborn