NEW DELHI: From being a laughing stock among friends and family to world champion, Praveen Kumar has come a long way. All this despite his interest in boxing and his father’s wish for him to become a wrestler.
Praveen recently became the first Indian male wushu world champion, when he beat Philippines’ Russel Diaz in the 48kg sanda category final of the 15th World Wushu Championships in Shanghai. The 22-year-old said the amount of work he put in made him confident of creating history.
What a proud moment for India! Congratulations Praveen Kumar for becoming India's first-ever Men's World Champion in #Wushu by securing Gold Medal in the 48kg category at the #WushuWorldChampionships in Shanghai. pic.twitter.com/mIhlYYF7rz— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) October 23, 2019
“After my silver in the 2016 Asian Championships, I realised that I can go far in this sport. That made me work doubly hard. My coach kept reminding me of the chance to do something memorable and I’m glad that I could get the job done.”
Hailing from Rohtak (Haryana), a place known more for boxing and wrestling, Praveen’s choice of taking up wushu back in 2012 raised more than a few eyebrows. From initially wanting to become a pugilist, the change in career happened after he visited a university where he saw wushu being played. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“I tried my best but could not quite crack it in boxing. Wushu is a combination of boxing, wrestling and kick-boxing. I got attracted instantly. But it was difficult to convince everyone and get their approval.
“My friends used to laugh. My father wanted me to go for wrestling as he felt there was more scope and money. But my heart was bent on succeeding in wushu.”
Monetary issues arose since Praveen’s father was an ordinary employee of the state electricity department. But once laurels started arriving, things took a turn for the better. “My uncle and other relatives have had to help me financially in the past. But once I became senior national champion in 2015, the situation improved. Now, I’m employed by the Army and they keep encouraging me to go even further,” recollected Assam Regiment havildar.
The Shanghai win was made more special by the reactions he got after coming back home. Now everybody keeps asking Praveen about the wushu and how to take it up.
“My father was delighted. He now supports me in my endeavours. That is a special feeling. Everybody enjoyed my success. It makes me proud that I could contribute to the sport gaining a following.”
Praveen’s focus is now on the upcoming Asian Championships (in India) and the World Cup next year. “I have to keep this momentum and carry on. Hopefully, more medals will come my way and I can keep making my country, the Army and my federation proud.”