Pune: In many Indian villages, for women who work in farms, pregnancy does not force any change to their daily work schedule and they continue it till the ninth month.
“If they can, why cannot I do the same,” was how Rajasthan archer Neelam Choudhary responded after she lost out in the quarterfinal stage in the women’s compound bow event at the 38th National Archery championship, which concluded at the Archery Outdoor Range in Army Sports Institute on Thursday.
The Rajasthan archer, who is into her ninth month of pregnancy, was in Pune to take part in the championship on her sheer will despite several people advising her not to--except her father Jagdish Kulhari--her biggest supporter.
Though the 24-year-old Neelam was knocked out in the quarter-finals, she received appreciation for her grit and determination from her teammates as well as opponents.
“Pregnancy is a natural process. There are hospitals everywhere so why should I worry about the birth of my baby,” is how Neelam reacted when asked about her decision to participate at a crucial juncture of her pregnancy. “Impossible is nothing. My father is my biggest supporter. Whenever I get nervous he cheers me up,” Neelam told Sakal Times in an interview. She has won bronze medals many a time since 2014 in the inter college archery championship and state championships.
Sports fanatic from childhood, Neelam started playing Kabaddi when young but then shifted to Archery in 2014. “My mother used to always worry when I used to play kabaddi, so I started taking interest in archery,” said Neelam who was also a part of her district kabaddi team, which won bronze medal in the Rajasthan state championship in 2013.
“Archery was different but I wanted to play sports so I started my training under Rajat Chauhan, who is gold medallist in Asian Games 2014 team event in compound archery and from there I never looked back, added Neelam, a resident of Fatehpur Shekhwati in Sikar district.
A graduate in Bachelor of physical education, Neelam is yet to win gold medal at the national or state level, but hopes to do well and keep on improving.
“Every day is a challenge for me. See when I started I used to get knocked out in the opening round, but slowly I improved on my game. I represented my state in the 2015 National Games in Kerala and advanced till the round of 32.
“Even in All India University Games, I failed to get good results but it has not stopped me from competing,” added Neelam, who took one year break for marriage and resumed training in 2017.
Pregnancy is not a hurdle
Elaborating more on her present situation, Neelam added “This championship is important for me as I want to represent Rajasthan in 2018 National Games, which will take place in Goa this November.
“This time national archery got delayed. If it had taken place early, maybe in November or December then I could have been in the earlier phase of my pregnancy. Anyways I was supposed to take part and nothing has stopped me,”
Support from Family
Neelam, who is married to banker Abhishek Singh, has a full support of her better half and her in-laws.
“My husband has never stopped me from playing. He is too supportive and he has convinced his parents and they have allowed me to travel to Pune,” added Neelam.
‘She is inspiration to all’
Neelam’s coach, Rajat Chauhan feels proud to train a woman, who is so much passionate about sports. “It takes guts to take part in the championship when you are in the ninth month of pregnancy. We cannot say no to Neelam as she had already made up her mind. She is hard working girl and practices 5-6 hours every day,” said Chauhan.