At 16, Tababi Devi Thangjam is a Youth Olympic medallist, becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal at any level in judo. She went down to Maria Gimenez in the women’s 44kg final at the Buenos Aires Games on Sunday night to win silver.
But not long ago, she was training for the sport she loves in secret as her parents weren’t keen on her learning judo, which they thought were for boys.
“I would train in secret without telling them. When they first found out, they said that I wasn’t allowed. They would ask me, ‘Why are you doing judo, you might get injured? Study, or do anything but this.’ Sometimes they tried to stop me, but I’d always run away. They would get angry, but I loved (judo), particularly the fighting spirit,” the 16-year-old from Manipur told the official website of the 2018 Youth Olympics.
Tababi Devi also said that fighting came naturally to her and she was always involved in street brawls. “I was a tomboy, always fighting with the boys, but I used to be so frustrated that I was so weak. The boys would tease me, and even the girls would always beat me.
“But judo changed my life. I got stronger and suddenly everyone respected me. No one dared challenge me anymore, even the bigger boys,” she added.
But once she found her feet in judo, the teenager has enjoyed good success and the support of her family. Tababi Devi is the Asian cadet champion in 2017 and won her second gold medal at the same level at the Cadet and Junior Asian Cup this year.