Chennai January : One would mistakenly count Shahin Darjada, seated with cornrows decorated with beads on her head, as some sports fan enjoying an outing at the indoor hall of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium where the judo competitions of the ongoing Khelo India Youth Games are being held.
Hailing from Jambur village, popularly known as the ‘Mini Africa’ of Gujarat, Shahin walked away with a gold medal in 57kg category with a convincing win over Himachal Pradesh’s Rupanshi in the final.
There are a couple of more players hailing from the region, situated around 20km from Gir, and has served as a home to Siddi community, which is of African origin.
Shahin, who recently won a silver medal at the Asian Junior Judo Championship in Tashkent, now has two gold, one silver and a one bronze from her four appearances in the Khelo India Youth Games.
“It was an easy bout for me. The opponent did not trouble me as I carried experience of four Khelo India competitions. It was my opponent’s first Khelo India final. I was in complete control of the bout right from the beginning. Happy that my Khelo India journey comes to an end with a gold,” she said after winning the final.
The 18-year-old said her performance started to improve once she shifted to the Vijayi Bharat Sports Academy (VBSA) in Ahmedabad where she started training under Georgian coach, Lasa Kizilashvili from 2022.
Speaking about her future, Kizilashvili said “She trains hard at the academy. She follows every instruction given to her. A promising future lies before her. If you ask me, she is an Olympic material.”
A Class 12 student of Somnath Academy in her native village, Shahin is one of the six siblings and counts herself as a fortunate one to have supportive parents. Shahin’s father works in the government circuit house while her mother is a housewife.
“It was in 2016 when my father first took me to a sports academy, and I had no clue about which sport to pick. I spent around two years at the DLSS (District Level Sports School) in Rajkot where I finally found judo as an interesting choice, and then got my skills fine-tuned at another academy in Nadiad for the next five years and went on to win my first KIYG gold (in Guwahati),” she recalled.
Last year, she participated in the junior World Championships and that experienced helped her pocket the gold medals at the junior National Championships and the Cadet Nationals.
“My coaches Lal Krishnan Baghel and Lasa Kizilashvili have been really supportive, and instrumental in my transformation. I have been able to get international exposures which has boosted my confidence, and gearing up to bag a gold in my final KIYG,” she said.
While she has another couple of years in the junior circuit, Shahin has her eyes on the big stage, and hopes to fulfils her parent’s wishes by represent India at the highest levels.