Wonder Girl

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Despite back-to-back tragedies Mitali Dogra proved her worth as a gymnast at both national and international stage. Aakash Hassan reports her journey

In 1997, Madubala, a mother of two daughters: Rashmi, then 8, and Mitali, then 6, started planning their future. A resident of Jawahar Nagar, Jammu, Madubala wanted Rashmi to become an athlete and Mitali a dancer. But the plan had a few glitches as Madubala was a working mother.

However she couldn’t afford to send them to two different locations for training.

So, she thought of training both the siblings as athletes at the same academy. While Rashmi took her new role as an athlete seriously, Mitali joined just for the sake of fun.

After a few years of training, while Rashmi started showing promising talent, Mitali was still not out of her fun phase.

As a result their coach one day told Madubala that Rashmi has a great future as athlete, but he cannot coach Mitali as she is not serious.

The coach’s comments hurt Mitali. “I wanted to prove him wrong and started spending extra hours at training,” recalls Mitali.

As predicted by the coach, few years later Rashmi started winning accolades at both state and national level competitions. But it was Mitali who surprised everyone when she was selected in senior team for national level championship held in Chandigarh. She was just 12 then. She won silver, leaving everyone puzzled.

In 2007, after brief illness caused by fever and cold, Rashmi died suddenly. It left everybody in a deep shock including Mitali, who was supposed to participate in an event in Mumbai the next day. “She was my first gymnastics teacher,” said Mitali.

Rashmi’s untimely death left Mitali in a deep shock and she detached herself from everything for next three months.

“Then I thought I need to do this for sake of my sister,” said Mitali.

Same year Mitali participated in 18th National Championship at Jodhpur, and won all five Gold medals. She created history by becoming first player in India to do so in rhythmic gymnastics.

Again, in the same year, she won five medals: one gold, one silver and three bronze.

Her feat made then CM Ghulam Nabi Azad call her ‘Wonder Girl’. He also gave her a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.

But before she could celebrate her wins and plan her future another tragedy struck the family. “My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Mitali. “It was she who stood by me when my relatives said why sports.”

However, with early diagnose, Madubala started recovering fast. “This helped me concentrate on my sports.”

For Commonwealth Games Delhi (2010), Mitali was listed in the probable team.

In May 2010, she represented India at World Cup in Minsk, followed by the World Cup Series for Rhythmic Gymnasts in Italy. “But success in my life comes with a heavy price always,” said Mitali.

In 2011, her father, Satish Kumar, a class fourth employee in Power Development Department died after brief illness.

The tragedy left Mitali devastated as she once again distanced herself from the sports. “Then my mother inspired me to get back on my feet,” recalls Mitali.

In 2014, Mitali represented India at Commonwealth Games held in Scotland. “It was a great achievement for me,” said Mitali.

Next year, Mitali proved herself once again when she won one gold and two bronze medals at National Games in Kerala.

Recently Mitali, now 26, a recipient of Sher-i-Kashmir Sports Award, is appointed as coach in State Sports Council.

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