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India's first female para-rower, Kritika Khanna belongs to Jammu, wins bronze for India

Daughter of the soil, Kritika Khanna, 34, has brought laurels to the Jammu and Kashmir State by winning a bronze medal in a team event (PR3Mix4+) at Asian Para-Rowing Championship 2019 which was recently held in Cheongju, South Korea.

Kritika is India’s first female para-rower who has overcome all the hurdles to reach this pinnacle.

Jammu Links News interacted with Kritika after the championship. Read some excerpts from the interview:

Q1. Congratulations on winning the bronze medal for India in Asian Para-Rowing Championship 2019. How does it feel to be a part of such great achievement?

I feel honored to be a part of such an achievement. It was a collaborative effort and it feels as if a dream has come true. I felt like we served the nation in some manner and it was exhilarating to hold the tricolor after winning the medal. We had goosebumps when the flag was hoisted at the event.

Q2. Tell us something about yourself? Where did you grow up and completed your education?

I was born and brought up in this beautiful place, Jammu only and have completed my education from Presentation Convent Sr. Sec. School, Gandhi Nagar, Jammu. Currently, I am working as an Assistant Manager with J&K Grameen Bank. This event was my first ever experience with sports after my amputation following an accident in 2003 in which I lost a leg. Becoming a para-athlete has given me a sea of opportunities and enriching experiences.

Q3. How did you manage to recover from the accident?

I was only 18 when I met with the accident but owing to my determination to stay fit, I chose to workout consistently. My perseverance drew Army officer and my mentor, Colonel Gaurav Dutta, India’s only para-triathlete to me. So, he trained me for the event and today, we have succeeded in making India proud.

Recently, he has shared the celebratory moment on Facebook, saying “PR3Mix4+ crew of India won a bronze medal. First-ever Championship for the crew, history created in Indian Rowing. Two inadequate short camps, lot of hard work by coaches and crew. Well-done, K Narayana,

Jyoti Radheshyam Gaderiya,  Kritika Khanna, Kuldeep Singh on the oars and Rohith Maradappa at the rudder.

A dream come true for me as the first Chair, Rowing Federation of India, Para-Rowing Commission. Thank you Rowing Federation of India for believing in us and giving me this opportunity.”

Q4. How do you manage to stay so positive?

I have always tried to challenge myself everyday and fighting small battles consistently. I am an arrogant optimist who looks for happiness in every minutest thing. I try to learn and do new things on a daily basis thus celebrating even the smallest achievements. I think my attitude towards life is a strength for me and then willpower followed.

Q5. Who have been your constant support system in the journey and your mentor in rowing?

My family and then my mentor, Colonel Gaurav Dutta. He is the one who found out about me and then trained and motivated me for rowing. I was utterly surprised to know that I am called for an international event.

On many occasions, my mentor tells me that I'm a natural rower which comes as a surprise to me as no one in my family has ever thought about rowing. But, yes, I feel blessed and honored.

Besides, I would also like to thank Mrs. Rajlaxmi Singh Deo, President Rowing Federation of India and Army Rowing Node, Pune. 

Q6. How much hard work went into winning a medal for the country in recent Asian Para Rowing Championship 2019?

We had a camp of 40 days for this particular event. Earlier in May also, we were trained for almost two months so in toto four months of hard work has gone into getting the bronze medal. I believe rowing not only tests your physical strength but also your mental endurance. We used to train for 16 km rowing in one-go although, in the actual event, the distance was about 2 kilometers. In order to keep up my physical strength, I used to go to the gym every day. But I would still emphasize that rowing is more of a mental game so even when your body wants to give up, you have to convince your brain to finish the task at hand.

Q7. Since you are India’s first female para-rower, what are your future aspirations?

The main target is to represent India for the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan and finish at the podium.

Q8. How have your family and friends reacted to the news?

Frankly, they are happily surprised and super proud. Especially, my friends tell me that they always knew I would do something great but winning a medal for India was not on the list. So, yes, they are more than happy and now after checking social media sites, congratulatory messages are coming from everywhere.

Q9. Would you like to give any advice to our younger generation?

I would say that irrespective of your shortcomings, just feel good about yourself and that is the best thing, you can do for yourself. Also, stay fit and try new things every day- maybe cook a meal, read a book, run for a while, avoid social media for a few days. Basically, keep the child alive in you and enjoy life.


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Hardeep Bali