On Friday, Manipur’s Linthoi Chanambam became the first ever Indian to become a Judo World Champion after she defeated Brazil’s Bianca Reis in the women’s -57kg category event in the Cadet World Championships held in Sarajevo.

During a virtual media interaction held after the Indian judoka scripted history, the 16-year-old alongside Inspired Institute of Sports Judo Head Coach Mamuka Kizilashvili, spoke about her historic win, her training and her future plans.

“I feel absolutely great. It is an incredible feeling. I feel like I did something from the bottom of my heart and here is the result,” the teenager said during the interaction facilitated by JSW Sports.

The judoka has been part of the IIS’ Judo Program since 2017 and been on several exposure trips with the guidance of Kizilashvili, including camps at the University of Tsukuba, in Japan, Georgia and most recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina ahead of the World Cadet Championships.

On her journey so far, Chanambam said, “I started Judo from 2014 and I came to Inspired Institute of Sports in Bellari in October, 2017. The last five years, with so much of support from everyone, my life has really changed.”

One of India’s brightest prospects on the Judo mat, Chanambam showed glimpses of promise when she won Gold at the Sub-junior National Championships, in 2018. In November 2021, she also struck Gold at the National Championships held in Chandigarh, followed by another at the Asian Cadet and Junior Judo Championships, in Bangkok, in July.

“The academy where I was previously part of before joining IIS, was at a stone’s throw distance from my home. So, my father always accompanied me during my practice sessions,” Linthoi said.

“I always wanted to take up a sport like judo from a very young age. In fact, I love boxing and football as well. But there were quite a few Judo academies near my hometown. That’s what attracted me most about this sport and my family supported me from the very beginning,” she added.

Her coach Kizilashvili, who first spotted her in Telangana during his role in the talent identification development programme, spoke about Chanabam’s dedication since her early days.

He said: “When I visited Manipur, I was surprised to see the passion people have for the sport there. The first time I saw her, I instantly knew that she has something in her to become a world class athlete, although she was very young then.”

“When as a coach, you start training an athlete from such a young athlete, it is very easy to mould them. It really worked for her too. She also proved it big time. This is a historic achievement and could change Indian Judo in the coming days. Both the Indian government and the Sports Authority of India are doing the right things to support the athletes. For instance, Linthoi was only 13 when we recommended her to SAI. And, they funded her from that very moment,” he added.

Talking about her plans for the future, Chanabam expressed her aim to win an Olympic medal and train accordingly. She said, “I will try my best to win a medal in Paris. But, if not in Paris, I am sure I can do it at the 2028 Olympics (in Los Angeles).”

Quotes courtesy: PTI