CHENNAI: India's Wushu players are not a celebrated bunch. Rarely do they feature in dailies or magazines. Yet, they have been a consistent lot in international competitions, especially in recent years. Events they have won medals in include World and Asian Championships. With Asian Games on the horizon, they get a rare chance to come to the fore.
Like other popular sports, the preps are on for these unsung heroes. This martial art involving full physical contact may be yet to appeal to the masses, but people administering and taking part in it are focussed on the task ahead. Currently undergoing a camp in Shilaroo in Himachal Pradesh, a 10-member team along with three in the support staff (two coaches, one physio) will head to Shanghai for a tournament.
Suhel Ahmed, Wushu Association of India secretary general, said a meeting was held between the government and the federation on Thursday. "We discussed the China trip, getting visas etc. It was a good meeting and the tour will be a good exposure for the players."
Of the lot set for the China trip, seven are part of the Target Olympic Podium scheme (TOPs). "Two, three TOPs players were beaten by non-TOPs players. So we want to be fair and give an opportunity to all," said Ahmed.
Ten members of the team are part of the TOP scheme (handed just four months ago), a sign that the sport is gaining ground. Ahmed thinks it can grow bigger with regular backing from the government. "We have won medals in the last three Asian Games. After we started getting government support, we won gold in the World Junior Championships (2016) and Asian Championships (2016). We even won a historic gold at the World Championships (2017). If we get full backing, wushu can definitely go far," he said.
Ahmed revealed there are talks of an academy, to nurture more talent. The WAI is also hoping to get a psychologist. "When our players are up against China are Iran, they carry that pessimistic attitude. We started counselling sessions at the junior level and it worked. We have realised that having a psychologist could lift our players," Ahmed said.
World Championships gold medallist Pooja Kadian and Arjuna awardee Y Sanathoi Devi are the top names. The latter had won bronze at the last Asian Games in Incheon. And there's Naorem Roshibina (Asian Junior Championships gold medallist), who has been punching above weight.
Coach Rajvir Singh, who is in Shilaroo, is upbeat. "Training is going well, everyone is keen on doing well." Team selection for the Asiad is scheduled for June 19.