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Parents’ sacrifices, no smartphone policy help Naveen finish on top of podium


Express News Service

CHENNAI: The nation was mesmerised by Ravi Dahiya’s story when the Haryana wrestler clinched the Tokyo Olympic silver last year. While Ravi’s tenacity amazed everyone, it was his father Rakesh Dahiya who drew maximum attention for his untiring efforts and sacrifices. The father used to travel around 60km from Nahri village (Haryana) to Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium every day to ensure his son got the best diet.
Naveen is yet another Indian wrestler, whose father Dharampal Malik, who owns a small piece of land in Pugthala village (Haryana), is doing the same chores for the past 10 years so that his sons shine on the mat. He has been travelling 35-40km every day from his village to Sonepat to deliver milk, butter, ghee and homecooked food to his sons — Naveen and elder brother Parveen.

“He leaves home at 5:30 am. It takes him around two hours to reach our akhada boarding a bus. My mother Gunwati wakes up early at 3:30 am to cook food. This has been going on for the past 10 years,” Parveen told this daily.Dharampal and Gunwati would be proud parents as their son Naveen won gold on his maiden Commonwealth Games outing in Birmingham on Saturday. He defeated Ogbonna Emmanuel John from Cameroon 13-3 by technical superiority in his first bout before making a short work of Singapore’s wrestler Hong Yeow Lou as he won the quarterfinal by technical superiority in just 1:02 minutes. The local favourite Charlie Bowling failed to offer any resistance in the semifinal as the Indian once again registered a 12-1 win by technical superiority to storm into the final. He then defeated Pakistan’s Muhammad Sharif Tahir 9-0 in the final to finish on top.

Naveen followed the footsteps of his brother, who was pursuing Greco-Roman wrestling. In 2016, Parveen got employed by the Indian Navy as a petty officer and moved to Raipur Akhada in Sonepat where the Navy wrestlers train. Naveen also shifted along with his brother.“Apart from studies, Naveen used to cook food, clean rooms and do other work while staying with Parveen. He also started practising wrestling. It’s then I saw him and started training him along with other civilian wrestlers,” coach Kuldeep Singh said.
Naveen was a quick learner and never shied away from putting in the extra effort. “The best thing about him is that he listens to the coaches and is very focussed. He started competing at the junior level in 2020 and won junior national gold in 2021 and 2022. He also bagged silver in the 2021 senior nationals. All these medals came in the 70kg weight category,” added the coach.Naveen made his international debut at the U-23 World Championships last year and clinched 74kg gold in his second competition at the U-23 Asian Championships in June this year.

No smartphone

The budding wrestlers are advised to avoid using smartphones at the akhada as the coaches believe them to be the biggest distraction. “Naveen uses the basic phone and whenever he goes overseas for a tournament, he borrows a smartphone from his brother,” said Kuldeep.Parveen also believes the decision helps upcoming wrestlers in staying focussed. “If you want to succeed at the international level then you have to make such sacrifices. Naveen anyway doesn’t demand anything. As far as smartphones are concerned, he has decided to buy one once he succeeds in representing India at the Olympics and wins a medal there.”

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