Wushu, like many other games, has walked the low-profile path in India over the years. The martial art has been contributing to the medals tally for India successively since the last three Asian Games, but the hard-fought victories seem to be swept under the carpet as wushu players struggled to draw any attention to themselves prior to the launch of the 18th edition of the Asian Games extravaganza.
Wushu, a popular martial art which finds its roots in China, first came to India in 1989. The game is classified into two major categories- Sanshou and Taolou. India, have won five medals—1 silver, 4 bronze—in Sanshou since debuting in the Doha Asian Games. But despite winning laurels at the biggest stage, wushu players find themselves dumped in the list of unsung heroes, thanks to the low newsprint space.
Rajvir Singh, national wushu coach, talks to The Sunday Guardian and says the sparse media coverage disheartens the players and also brings their morale down.
“The 2018 Asian Games have been in news now since past 15 days or more but nobody is talking about wushu. All the attention is limited to a bunch of star players. This low media coverage affects the mentality of players,” Rajvir says.
He informs that wushu is the only martial art where India has been winning medals consistently in Asiad but laments the fact that the recognition the players receive is not on par with their achievements.
Besides the Asian Games, Indian players have also been consistent in podiums finishes in other international events. India bagged a historic gold at the 2017 World Championships. The other achievements in wushu include a gold medal in the World Junior Championships (2016) and Asian Championships (2016) and four silver and five bronze medals in the recently concluded World Junior Championship.
And it feels strange to Rajvir that how all these accomplishments have been sidelined.
“It is quite strange. Take the example of Pooja Kadian, who won the first ever gold medal for India at the 2017 World Wushu Championships. When a historic gold was won in the wrestling World Championship every media house carried the story but Pooja’s victory was limited in a line or two of the newspapers. She was forgotten in a day. A world champion is a world champion be it in the game of wrestling or wushu.” The former player, however, adds that this is not only the case with wushu but with almost every other sport in India.
“In India, only three or four sports make it to the headlines on a regular basis, rest all other games come to fore only for a certain period of time that is when they win medals and that is why there are not many teams in sports like canoeing and rowing.”
“But we can do good in martial arts,” adds the optimistic Rajvir.
Recalling the wushu Arjuna awardees- W. Sandhyarani Devi (2011), M. BimolJit Singh (2012), Y Sanathoi Devi (2015)- Rajvir says the government of India has always recognised the players for their accomplishments and that now its media’s turn to do a bit more on their part to promote the game.
“If people read about it, they will develop their interest in the game. And this will also inspire others to take up the sport.”
Talking of the scant popularity, the coach also asserts that despite all the factors the players are determined to maintain the medal consistency in Indonesia and he is expecting minimum two medals of the 13-membered squad participating in the Games.
“We have been doing great since past ten years. Now India have also come up to the level of countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, Korea which have won gold medals in Asiad. Other countries are not taking India lightly,” he concludes.