Tulika Maan’s journey from overweight judoka to Commonwealth Games silver medallist

Birmingham, Aug 4 (IANS) Lost 30 kilograms of weight in a few months, a silver medal in Commonwealth Games gained — the mathematics did not add up for Indian judoka Tulika Maan as she stood in the mixed zone after the Women’s +78kg category final.
She had come to Birmingham hoping for a gold medal so winning a silver had left her devastated. She had stormed into the final with an assured performance and had taken lead against favourite and former CWG gold medallist Sarah Adlington of Scotland in the women’s 78kg division to bag a silver medal at Victoria Park Arena, Coventry on Wednesday.
Tulika, who was initially not included in the squad for the Commonwealth Games when the first shortlist was made because she was nearly 30 kg overweight, got into shape in the next 6-7 months with the help of coach Jiwan Kumar Sharma at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bhopal and impressed the selectors to be included in the squad for Birmingham.
Brought up by her mother Arpita Maan, who is an assistant sub-inspector with Delhi Police, after her businessman father died when Tulika was young, the 23-year-old had left judo after 2011 for a few years, unable to find the desire and dedication to pursue the sport.
With her coach Jiwan Kumar Sharma and her mother encouraging her, Tulika turned back to judo a few years back and has not seen back since then. She has won the national championships four times and has also done well at the Asian in Commonwealth Championships.
The silver she won on Wednesday is the biggest triumph of her career but Tulika was not satisfied. She felt it was not adequate compensation for the efforts she had put in.
“She had worked very hard, and lost around 30 kgs within a short period of time. When she was first ignored for the Commonwealth Games, Tulika was not in shape to participate in the event. She is a very dedicated and hard-working girl,” said her coach Jiwan Kumar Sharka.
Disappointed in herself for committing some mistakes and allowing her much experienced opponent the opportunity to attack and win the match, the young Indian judoka was totally devastated.
And that’s why she just stood there in the mixed zone staring into the camera, too distraught to speak as tears welled up in her eyes. She had suffered a devastating defeat in the Women’s 78kg division of the Commonwealth Games judo competitions at Victoria Park Arena, Coventry.
The unexpected verdict against the crowd favourite while leading by a point had her stunned and the 23-year-old kept shaking her head, her voice choking her up making it impossible to say a word.
That’s what defeat does to you when you have invested too much hard work, energy, effort, emotions and time, preparing without competition for two years devastated by the pandemic.
A few minutes later, she was much-composed, coherent and talking with other medal winners, smiling and exchanging notes with the senior players.
“I made some mistakes and allowed her to attack. I had also committed two fouls earlier and that meant she got the point after putting me on my back,” Tulika told the media after the medal ceremony.
“Initially, I was very disappointed as I was expecting to win the gold medal. I have worked very hard for this and prepared well but that was not to be and some mistakes allowed her to win the final,”
“I have to learn from this bout, gain more experience and cut down on the mistakes. My aim is to win more medals and qualify for India in the Olympics and do well there. I will try and achieve my targets at the Paris Olympics in 2024,” she signed off, dedicating her win to her mom, younger sister, and coach.
This is the biggest medal of Tulika’s career as the 23-year-old from New Delhi has so far bagged a gold medal in the South Asian Games in 2019 and two gold medals in Commonwealth Championships in 2019.
But besides the silver medal, Tulika has also gained a lot of experience and also got back the hunger and desire to excel at the top level, something she had lost a few years back. Refreshed, Tulika Maan is aiming for the sky once again.

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