National Games Bronze gave me the push to never quit again, says Assam’s Tilok Kutum

 National Games Bronze gave me the push to never quit again, says Assam’s Tilok Kutum

Team L&M

A Bronze Medal in Pencak Silat at the 37th National Games in Goa has come as a fresh ray of hope for Tilok Kutum, the Assam youngster who was forced to quit the sport due to acute financial crisis.

Hailing from the world’s largest river island in Majuli, Tilok made a comeback to the sport in 2019, after being coaxed by his coach Lakhyajit Doley, and instantly made his presence felt in the Under-49 kg category by winning a gold in the state championships before the Covid lockdown forced him to take the backseat once again. He had to wait for his next opportunity — that came in Goa, where the sport made its debut at the 37th National Games.

“Life gives a second chance to everyone, this bronze has given me that push to never quit again,” an elated Tilok said. “Yes, a Gold would have been amazing, but this Bronze has given the hope that I can change the colour in the next edition.”

Tilok’s foray into sports began with kickboxing in 2013, before switching over to Pencak Silat, three years later. He made an instant impression by pocketing a silver in the 2016 National Championships, before bettering it with a Gold the next year. In 2018, he settled for a Bronze and missed out on the Jakarta Asian Games spot.

The setback forced him to rethink his choice, and eventually decided to switch over to boxing — a recognised Olympic discipline. In boxing too, he came up with impressive performances to find himself in the Khelo India Youth Games summer camp. But as fate would have it, he missed the bus again, this time as his mother was hospitalised and there was no one to take care of her.

With his sporting career hitting regular roadblocks, and the financial burden of the family getting heavier with each passing day, Tilok eventually made up his mind to quit sports forever and began working as a security guard in Chennai.

“It was getting difficult, my sports career was heading nowhere, I left one sport, joined another and then the financial burden on the family was getting unbearable. So, I decided to leave everything, including my state, and moved to Chennai.

“But even then, somewhere inside, the athlete inside refused to die, and my coach would repeatedly call me back,” he added.

He returned to Majuli a year later and began training again.

“Whatever meagre savings I could make in Chennai, I used that to get back into training for Pencak Silat. My coach also helped me a lot in terms of motivating me to get back to my best. After my comeback, I won a bronze in the National Championships in Nashik earlier this year, before heading to Goa,” he added.

Tilok’s father is a mason by profession, and during his time off from competition, the youngster doubles up as a helper.

Now with a National Games medal in hand, Tilok hopes that the days of desperation are nearing an end as he expects a job from the state government back home.

“I’m hoping that the medal fetches me a job back in Assam, it will reduce a lot of financial burden on the family. I want my ageing father to rest now…” he said.


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