Have you ever wondered why the maximum number of wrestlers come from the state of Haryana? If wrestler and world peace activist Labhanshu Sharma is to be believed, it happens not only because the denizens of northern state are stronger genetically. Also, they own cattle that gets them easy access to quality milk-ghee-curd from childhood. But more importantly, the state government offers maximum number of jobs to sportspersons, wrestler community being the biggest benefactors. “It is one of the major reasons why youth from Haryana wants to indulge in sports,” says Labhanshu who was born and brought up in a middle class family in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.
LIFE BEFORE BECOMING A WRESTLER
The youngest son of a former havildar in Indian Army, Suresh Chand Sharma, who won a number of medals in wrestling including the national championship and a Delhi Police sub inspector mother, Labhanshu is the winner of two gold medals in Asian International Games and Indo-Nepal International Wrestling Tournament under category 120 kg.
Not this alone, Labhanshu saved the lives of two individuals from drowning in River Ganga in Rishikesh and was awarded the National Bravery Award in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Republic Day.
The same year, he kick-started a campaign, Save Youth Save World in which 20,000 youth took pledge against drugs, alcohol and tobacco. A year later, in 2016, he attended the World Youth Conference in Malaysia. To spread the message of peace, love and humanity, Labhanshu travelled to 32 countries (28,000+ km) by road from Dehradun to London.
We spoke with the young wrestler…
Why did you not join the Army like your father?
It’s not that I didn’t want to join Indian Army. In fact, it is my dream. I have decided to join the Defence Forces as soon as I complete my studies. To serve the country is a matter of pride, be it as a wrestler or an Army personnel.
What preparations went in for reaching where you have?
For the last 12 years, I have been waking up at 4:00 am to practice. Hard work is the key to success.
You saved two people from drowning as a teenager. Share that incident…
I was having my morning walk on the banks of River Ganga in Rishikesh and suddenly saw two people drowning and no one willing to save them so I jumped in 40 feet deep fast flowing water of the mighty river and saved them.
Tell us about the status of wrestling in India – competitions, opponents, facilities, expectations and coaches…
The status of infrastructure is good in Delhi and Haryana but it is in dire straits in Uttarakhand. I have been practicing in mud for years now. Numerous representations to government officials have not worked.
Where do you see five years from now?
I will try my best to win medals for my country at international level as a wrestler, be it the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games. Also, I want to be an Indian Army officer by then.