Madhya Pradesh Arm Wrestling Association president Manohar Singh Shekhawat has played a pivotal role in promoting the sport of Armwrestling in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Today, Madhya Pradesh is a hotbed of Armwrestling in India and the top level champions coming out from the Gwalior belt is a testament to this fact. However, it wasn’t like this always and at one point Madhya Pradesh was without even an Armwrestling federation which led to many believing that the sport would go into irrelevance.
In an interview with Sportsindiashow.com, MP Armwrestling association president Manohar Singh Shekhawat revealed how he restarted the federation in 2009 and how the sport has gained popularity since then.
How long have you been associated with Arm Wrestling?
“I’m associated with Arm Wrestling since 2009. But, Arm Wrestling got stopped in Madhya Pradesh (MP). The thing is that the team started to compete in 1990 but it stopped in 2004-05. Then I started in 2009 alongside Tariq bhai (Tariq Khan) started. Since then we have been regular.”
What caused Arm Wrestling to stop in Madhya Pradesh?
“There are multiple factors to it. Sometimes there are political influences. Arm Wrestling not being a National sport, the politicians or the administrative head wouldn’t want to be associated. It is quite an expensive affair and most of the athletes are from a middle-class background. So some of them would be able to bear the expenses of the National stage. People started to think there is no scope in the sport. Had it been a sport included in Olympics, people would get the added benefits. So, gradually people started to shift away from the sport.”
Do you think that the sport has gained more popularity since you started in 2009?
“Yes, it has become more popular. Back in 2009, we believed that the MP team in is 10th position in India. But, ever since, the number of athletes and their interest in the sport increased. The new athletes were also got influenced by the experienced athletes. Gradually, when they started to compete on National stage and win medals, the interest increased more and more. We would also host different competitions on District and State level.”
Some high-profile Arm wrestlers are emerging from Madhya Pradesh like Sachin Goyal, Manish Kumar who have been champions. Do you think more talents will be emerging from the state?
“We do screening on the athletes in the State level because it’s the toughest stage. I believe that more World-class athletes will emerge from Madhya Pradesh. The current athletes in the state are working on themselves and if they get support from the MP Govt. then can compete globally. You’ve seen Sachin (Goyal), Umesh Pal, (Arvind) Rajak in Gwalior. There are also athletes from Indore like Vikram Shekhawat who has competed in Asian Championship. I believe the number of athletes will increase in the next 3 years in Madhya Pradesh. A good platform will be built.”
Recently, Manish Kumar said that one could get Govt. jobs. What are your thoughts on that?
“Yes, Manish got a job from Arm Wrestling only. He also got the Vikram Award which is Madhya Pradesh’s Sports Award. So, Govt. has to pay more attention to the athletes since they have started giving awards to them. Manish met Bhopal Commissioner and a competition is being planned for the Divyang. The Govt. will pay Rs.10,000 to all the districts of Madhya Pradesh and take the sports forward. There will be a competition in Jabalpur on 9th April. The Bhopal Commissioner is hosting the competition. So, this is a very good opportunity.”
What improvements have you seen in Arm wrestling since the arrival of Pro Panja League?
“There has been a struggle in the initial stages of Pro Panja League started by Preeti Jhangiani and Parvin Dabas. Parvin ji (Dabas) has highly promoted the tournament. The way Top 18 is selected, it seems that he would host a huge event in the future. The athletes believe that similar to Pro Kabaddi that aired on TV, Pro Panja League will also grow and become a professional sport. If a franchise-based auction system is added then the athletes will also be benefitted. I think Pro Panja League will make improvement.”
What more should be done to promote the sport of Arm Wrestling in India?
“The federation does the collection. If Govt. is associated with them and it gets included in Olympics, then Govt. will be bearing the expenses. Some athletes are competing in world level by sponsoring themselves. But if Govt. sponsors them it will beneficial for them. The athletes also attained good positions in the competitions.”
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