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A Dangal With A Cause In Haryana's Wrestling Heart

Image credit: News18 Sports)

Image credit: News18 Sports)

Keeping the tradition of wrestling alive, the Bharat Kesari Dangal, came into existence last year when it was held in Gurugram. This year the venue shifted to Ambala Cantonment. Thousands gathered at War Heroes Memorial Stadium in Ambala to cheer for their favourite wrestlers.

Ambala Cantt: Haryana has had a long standing relationship with sports. While the state has produced several exponents of India's favourite sport, cricket, including World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev, it is the its association with medal winners in multi-discipline sports that has kept it in the headlines over the past decade.

Wrestling for an instance is a household sport in Haryana and with the likes of Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and the Phogat sisters winning laurels for the country at the highest, it has without doubt become Haryana's most celebrated sport.

Keeping the tradition of wrestling alive, the Bharat Kesari Dangal, came into existence last year when it was held in Gurugram. This year the venue shifted to Ambala Cantonment. Thousands gathered at War Heroes Memorial Stadium in Ambala to cheer for their favourite wrestlers.

Amidst deafening noise of Punjabi music, dhols and nagaras, the chants of Phogat sisters – Gita and Babita – were one of the high points of wresting tournament.

About 80 wrestlers, including 21 international-level wrestlers, participated in the wrestling fest, which is organised to commemorate the memory of revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, who laid their lives for the cause of India's independence from foreign rule.

Competitors from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Railways, Rajasthan and Delhi participated in the three-day event. Top 8 teams were divided into 2 pools in 160 bouts of freestyle wrestling competition. The winners in each of the total ten categories, including five each for men and women, got cash prizes of Rs 10 lakh each.

The craze was clearly visible as a high-profile wrestling event was organised in a small city of Ambala where scores of people came together to watch some mouthwatering action.

"We also want to promote the traditional games. Last year, the dangal was organised in only one category but the federation and wrestling lovers wanted more; that is why this year the event has competitions in more weight categories," Haryana Sports Minister Anil Vij said.

"It is my dream to see an akhada in every village of Haryana,” Vij added.

Fans came in a huge number to get a glimpse of their favourite star. The moment came when Vinesh, one of the Phogat sisters, hit the mat. She had a terrible run in the Rio Olympics 2016 when she was stretchered off after suffering a knee dislocation during her quarterfinal bout.

She didn’t disappoint her fans this time. She defeated Pinky in the final. Cheers erupted after Vinesh won her final bout and waved her hands to the supporters.

"I have come all the way from Bhiwani to support Phogat sisters. They have made our Haryana proud ," a wrestling fan said.

London Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt made a grand entry surrounded with security personnel. Yogeshwar greeted his fans in his unique style. He folded his hands and thanked his supporters.

Wrestling fans jumped off their chairs and started chasing Yogeshwar. Some of them were struggling with pen and paper to get an autograph and some had their selfie camera switched on to capture the moment.

"I am happy to be here. There are many wrestlers who are representing Haryana and I wanted to see them winning this tournament. But, I specially came to see my inspiration Sushil bhai. He has motivated me a lot. I just wanted to meet him once. But he is not present here," a fan said.

Ambala residents are over-joyed with the success of the event and want to the city to host the event again next year. An enthusiastic female supporter said that her eight year old daughter wants to emulate the feats of Gita and Babita Phogat.

To say in a nutshell, the second edition of the Bharat Kesari Dangal has left an indelible mark on the heart and mind of wrestling fans of Haryana.