‘I owe everything to mama and kaka’, says the Maharashtra wrestler
Wrestler Rahul Aware, who won a Gold medal at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Austalia’s Gold Coast, received a hero’s welcome on Tuesday as hundreds of fans crowded the Pune International Airport to greet him.
Aware, who hails from Patoda tehsil in Beed district, bested Canada’s Steven Takahashi in men’s freestyle 57 kg wrestling final to clinch the top prize in a humdinger of a finale.
A protégé of renowned wrestler Harishchandra Birajdar, the 26-year-old shed tears of joy as he was feted with a Puneri pagadi and hoisted on the shoulders of his enthusiastic fans as he stepped outside the airport.
“It was Birajdar mama’s dream that at least one of his students should win a gold medal at an international event… It was a difficult time for me when he [Mr. Birajdar] passed away in 2011,” said an emotional Aware, who underwent rigorous training with Arjuna awardee Kakasaheb Pawar at the latter’s wrestling academy in Katraj.
Birajdar had scored a Gold way back in the 1970 British Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh in Scotland. An influential figure in the State’s wrestling scene with a deft eye for budding talent, he was responsible for helping several promising wrestlers realise their potential.
“While his [Birajdar’s] death left a void in my life and he was not present to witness my success, Kakasaheb Pawar helped bridge this long journey from despair to success …I am everything today because of mama and Kaka,” said Aware.
This was his second gold medal in Australia, having bagged one at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships held in Melbourne in 2011.
Aware moved to Pune in 2007 to receive instruction under Birajdar at the city’s Gokul Vastad Talimm, which dates from the early 19th century and is situated in the bustling, run-down Bhawani Peth area.
Under Birajdar’s guidance, Aware’s talents soon blossomed, as he bagged the gold at the Youth Commonwealth Games held in Pune in 2008. Since, then it has been a relentless thrust towards the top prize in the international sporting arena.
“Expectations naturally ran high and there was tremendous pressure on me to win the gold at the CWG…the semi-finals and finals, too, became progressively difficult. But I didn’t lose sight of the final goal,” said the modest wrestler, adding that “respecting one’s Guru and imbibing instruction with sincerity” was the surest path to a gold medal.
Aware said his sights were set on the Asian Games to be held in Indonesia in August this year.
“His achievement is extremely commendable… While there have been many good and aggressive wrestlers from Maharashtra, Rahul is the only one to have realized Harishchandra Birajdar’s dream of winning a gold at an international event. He never compromised on his commitment towards his sport,” said an exultant Mr. Pawar.
Reminiscing on his early potential, Aware’s father, Balasaheb Aware, who was present to receive his son, said: “His talent and skill at wrestling was evident since he was seven years of age. While he used to perform well at local events, a turning point came when Birajdar mama, recognizing his potential, urged us to enroll in his talim and we readily consented.”