The second time winner says she prepared physically, mentally, psychologically
World champion in carrom? No big deal, because we are the super powers in the game. We all fancy our skill as it is the most affordable and entertaining indoor game across the country.
No! Think again. The current men’s world champion is a Sri Lankan, Nishantha Fernando.
The respect for Rashmi Kumari, who crowned herself the women’s World Champion for a second time in Colombo this past Sunday, goes up manifold when you find her nursing a seven-month-old daughter.
“I just can’t explain the feeling when I won the title!” says 29-year-old Rashmi. The flood of emotions was quite understandable as Rashmi had trained for nearly ten hours daily, all alone, in preparing for the Sixth World Championship. She won the National Championship in January when she was in her eighth month of pregnancy, and finished second in the selection trials later, to make it to the team for the World Championship. Thanks to her adoring husband Sumit Verma and her mother, Rashmi was able to travel to Sri Lanka leaving the little baby in their charge.
“After becoming a mother, I think my will power has increased,” says Rashmi. When she won the World Championship the first time, “it just happened,” in 2000. “I just played without realising the significance. This time, I prepared physically, mentally and psychologically.”
She had finished third in the last two editions in 2004 at Colombo and in 2008 at Cannes, France. “It was great to play such a good final against Illavazhagi, the defending champion. I have played her many times, won a few times, and lost a few times,” says Rashmi about her doubles partner with whom she had won the doubles and team titles at the World Championship.
With 18 countries in the race, the competition was varied, though Rashmi emphasises that the Europeans and the Americans have a lot to do to catch up with the Asians. “Fernando played an extraordinary final to win the title for Sri Lanka. Yogesh Pardeshi, the World No.1, had lost in the semi-finals. He had the experience to win. Bharathi Dasan, the finalist, was good but did not have the experience at that level. Anyway, it was a harsh lesson for Indian carrom,” says Rashmi.
She credits her own growth as a carrom player to her late father Uday Prakash who introduced her to the game when she was seven, and her brother Ranjan, apart from the stupendous training with Neeraj Kumar over the past few years. “Our skill, match temperament and our experience of playing many good players help us keep a high standard,” she adds. “Training is very important. And training with very good players improves our level of play. We had a coaching camp with Arun Deshpande and we could practise so many variations.”
Rashmi is a Human Resources Executive with the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation in Delhi and is full of praise for her employer for their support and encouragement. “They will award Rs.5 lakh for the World Championship title,” she says. She worked earlier with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for four years.
Right since becoming National Sub-Junior Champion in 1997, Rashmi has won many national and international titles. “Carrom is my life,” she says, even though her daughter Shambhavi now is her priority and keeps her occupied all the time.