Pooja Ojha , a 36-year-old physically challenged woman, has proved that disability is not a barrier to emerge any talent as she becomes the first international medalist of Para Canoeing. With her strong determination she has bring off four international medals and 10 national medals so far.
Pooja Ojha, a resident of Bhind district, belongs to a poor farmer’s family and despite having around 80 percent disability (due to polio) she has bagged a silver medal in World championship in 2022. She has also been felicitated by the President of India Droupadi Murmu.
Taking about her tussle journey Ojha said “I have won four international medals and 10 national medals in Para Canoeing. For the first time in 2017, I joined the game and participated in the first national event. Thereafter, I got selected for the Asian National championship and clinched the silver medal in the event,”.
Shedding details about how her journey started, Ojha shared that her elder brother was a very good sportsperson who used to play various sports and he had suffered a serious spinal injury following which he died. He wanted to participate in international events but his wish could not be fulfilled.
“The almighty has created such a situation that I can fulfil the dreams of my brother. With the support of my parents, I managed to reach this stage and am currently practising under the guidance of Mayank sir in Bhopal for the last two years”, she said, adding that the picture of Bhind which was once conducted as a backward area is now changing.
“Under the guidance of Mayank sir, I have played Para World Championship in 2019 and bagged 10th rank and thereafter, clinched two gold medals in Thailand and a silver medal during world championship in Kenya in 2022,” said Ojha, elaborating that currently, she is preparing for Asian Championship and make every possible effort to ensure medals in Asian games.
Mayank Thakur, coach of Canoeing Kayaking Paralympic said that after the para canoeing camp being hosted with the help of the federation here in Bhopal, the team would leave for Uzbekistan to take part in the Asian Championship. “A total of 17 players, two assistant coaches and one physiotherapist and I will leave for Uzbekistan. We are hopeful of winning 20 medals in the Asian Championship,” he added.
“We have started the training of Ojha at a centre established in Bhind a few years back. After basic training, her advanced training took place in Bhopal. Last year, Ojha won a silver medal in the world championship which is one of the biggest achievements for the country,” said Thakur, who has been training players since 1999.
Thakur further said, “Pooja Ojha is a fighter and because of her family responsibilities, she is very much focused towards the game. If Pooja Ojha gets Vikram Award for the sport, then she will get a government job and at the same time this achievement will change the perspective.”
After returning from Uzbekistan, we will take part in the world cup at Hungary and the preparations for 2024 Olympic are also ongoing, Thakur said, elaborating that international exposure benefits players as well as boost their confidence.
The central government as well as the state government are supporting the players, said the coach, adding that currently we are number one in Asia and our efforts will be to keep the position in the future as well.