Story of Vinod Kumar Dahiya who fought many odds to make it to Olympics
By Nidhi Kumari
Vinod Kumar Dahiya is the second India-born Australian to qualify for Olympics after winning the silver medal at the Africa/ Oceania Olympics Qualifiers that were held in Algeria in April. Kumar who has trained with national level wrestlers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt (before shifting to Australia) at Satpal Singh’s akhada in Delhi has seen may a highs and lows in life. But the journey to reach the Olympics has not been an easy one.
Kumar who hails from a small village in Haryana discovered his love for wrestling at the tender age of eight. His dedication and hard work brought him many medals and laurels in the field of wrestling in India. Life was going smooth, when one day, it took an ugly turn; while Kumar was returning from a tournament in Karnataka in a train, a fellow wrestler whom Kumar had defeated in the tournament attacked him suddenly, beat him and threw him from the running train. He lay on the tracks bleeding profusely. “I had fractures on my, skull, arm, knee and also my stomach, the pain was unbearable,” Kumar reminisced. “For a very long time I was bed-ridden, people told that my career is over, I was losing confidence,” Kumar said.
But gradually Kumar was recovering. Once a fighter always a fighter! His friend and former wrestler Pawan Kumar encouraged him to re-start his passion for wrestling. Under his tutelage he came to Patiala. Though he wasn’t completely fit, he pushed himself to pursue his dreams for life.
After strenuous training and practice, he was back in action with much more vigour and valour.“To support myself financially, I fought dangals all over India. There was no monetary support from family, so I would fight as much as I could, to make a living. I fought in Karnataka, Haryana,Punjab and Himachal to earn money. I also won Punjab Kesari in my category,” he said.
However, a point came when there was no work, no money and no home. Dejected! Kumar came back to Haryana but continued his practice and training. One day an opportunity of a lifetime struck him. He travelled to Australia for the Australian Cup (2009) where he finished third. A good result indeed!
“I came third and I knew that it was a good result. I contacted Sandeep Kumar, an Indian wrestler who had played for Australia in Olympics. He told me that Australia is good for wrestling but there isn’t much money. I decided to shift here. But, I needed funds,” he said. And help did come from his old friend Pawan, his family and some loans from banks. With that Kumar landed in an absolutely new world where the road ahead was tougher for him.
To make both ends meet, he sold newspapers on foot, delivered couriers, worked as a bouncer in a night club and struggled really hard with the English language. But with the help of Wrestling Australia president Kuldip Bassi, he was able to train without obstruction. While he sold papers in the morning, he would make sure to practice, exercise and train the rest of the day and work again at night.
Years of hard work and training led Kumar to bring many medals, awards and recognition for Australia in wrestling, inspiring him furthermore.
Making it to the Rio Olympics has been a result of sheer hardwork.
“Mehanat karte jaao, Parmaatma par vishwaas rakho,” Kumar added with his innocent Haryanvi tone.
However, for Kumar the news comes with both cheer and despair. Since he has been immensely devoted to training he’s left with no time to work. And now that the pugilist has qualified, he intends to practice abroad. With not much funds with him, the National level champion has resorted to crowdfunding at https://www.gofundme.com/mvc.php?route=search&term=vinod%20kumar or contact him at # 0406398566 where he has put his profile seeking funds. Support and encourage the fighter! Vinod Kumar Dahiya.
(This interview was arranged by Neha Kolape at the office of Baysis Migration.
Indus Age and Vinod Kumar are thankful to Mr. Praveen Nalla, Director, Baysis Migration for arranging a tea and snack. He also declared his generous help of $500 to Vinod Kumar.)