He had not even heard about Judo till he turned 16. Meet Banwari Lal Yogi, the gold medallist at the Inter College Judo Championship 2008. He knew little about the sport till his guide recommended his name to represent his school at district school championship.
"I was informed that it is similar to wrestling," says Yogi, who belongs to a small village Dabla Buzurga of Jaipur district. Due to his lean physical built, Yogi was scared to participate in the competition in school. However, due to the faith shown by his guide, he could not withdraw his name from the list of selected players. And this turned out to be the turning point of his life.
Lack of proper training facilities and coaching were no hurdles for Yogi when he started practicing for the tournament. Recalling the days he says, "There were no mattresses in the village to practice, so I made akhada in our school, where I used to practice for two hours everyday."
In the process, he self-discovered his skills in the sport and learnt it. Yogi came to Jaipur to participate in the district school judo championship in 2002. It was the first time that he was visiting the city and he was nervous.
He, however, remained focussed on the task and did not let the nervousness get better of him. His perseverance bore fruit and he won the first gold medal in his debut tournament for his school. "I was very nervous before the tournament, but every win in the qualifying rounds gave me confidence and finally, I won the gold medal," said Yogi.
After winning the district tournament, he was selected for the state judo championship held in Nathdwara same year. Yogi was happy to be selected for the meet and attended a seven-day basic training camp before the tournament. Though he could not perform at the state tournament, he did not allow it to affect his morale. Yogi continued to practice in his village.
In 2003 and 2004, he again participated in the district school judo championship, but again came back empty handed. The defeat made him realise the importance of a good coach. Yogi took permission from his father and came to Jaipur to join Sawai Man Singh stadium in 2005. He started coaching under Mahipal Garewal.
For the next two years, Yogi commuted 60 kilometres everyday to practice. Hard work showed results and at the 2005 Junior State Judo Championship held in Kota, Yogi was back top his winning ways and won the gold medal. Same year, he also won bronze medal at another championship held in Churu.
His success saga continued in 2006 as well and Yogi won gold medal at the State Junior Judo Championship. His consistent performance won him a chance to represent Rajasthan at the Junior National Judo Championship held in Chennai (he reached the semi-final). "It was one the most disappointing moments of my life. I missed a chance to win bronze medal for the state," said Yogi.
However, Yogi got another opportunity to do this and he won the bronze medal for Rajasthan at Federation Cup Judo 2007. He won silver medal for Rajasthan College at the inter-college tournament and was also the inter-college champion in 2008.
Today, Yogi is a black belt holder judo champion. He dreams of opening a Judo academy in his village. "Children in small villages have lot of talent if they can be groomed with proper guidance," he says.
Yogi gives the credit of his success to his father Kalayan Mal Yogi. "My father is a farmer and Judo was a new thing for him. Still he never discouraged me to take up the sport and supported me all throughout," he said.
Yogi continues to practice at Sawai Man Singh stadium to add more medals to his kitty.
Copyright 2009 DNA Media, distributed by Contify.com
"A true Yogi; State judo player Banwari Lal Yogi speaks to Ajay Singh." DNA [Daily News & Analysis] 30 Aug. 2009. Educator's Reference Complete. Web. 18 Dec. 2009.
United States Judo Association - USJA
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