Saturday, November 18, 2006

stamped Impressions
Reeta Sharma

Risham Kaur Singh
Risham Kaur Singh: The first Asian taekwondo champ in the UK

I did not know much about taekwondo when I was introduced to Risham Kaur Singh, the National Champion of taekwondo in the UK. I had presumed that it must be some kind of karate. However, this 19-year-old girl patiently corrected me and told me more about the sport.

Softly Risham explained, “Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, which use a combination of hand and foot movements. The Korean army used to be trained in this art for self-defence. Incidentally, this modern art was started for combat in 1950, but has now become popular all over the word. So much so that in the 2000 Olympics, it was introduced as one of the competitions.”

Risham lost her mother at a very young age. Their father single-handedly brought up her and her two siblings in the UK. “Since my father was worried about our safety, he wanted us to learn some self-defence technique. That is how we sisters took up taekwondo. But the more I learnt this martial art, the more involved I got with it. Everybody around me began telling me that I was rather good at it. That’s when my coach Mandeep Rauli encouraged me to compete for the National Championship in the UK. I worked hard and my coach was a hard taskmaster. The result was that I won the national championship,” says this first and only Asian Taekwondo Champion of the UK matter of factly.

Risham, who also won the National Championship two years in succession, admits: “Frankly I didn’t face a lot of competition when I won the national championship. The Olympics in 2000 was a different story altogether. Thirtytwo countries had participated and their display of taekwondo was very good. Ever since I have seen their work I have been challenged enough to compete with them. These days my coach is preparing me for the World Championship of 2008.”

Like all other sports persons in the UK, Risham too has to slog it out on her own. The only benefit she received for winning the National Championship twice is that her education is now being fully financed by the British Government.

She follows a hectic daily schedule. She wakes up at six in the morning to reach her training centre, where she practices for about five hours. Then she heads for Brunei University of London, where she is doing two-year B.Tech national diploma in sports and exercise science. After her classes, she goes to work in American Express because she has to pay for her taekwondo training.

Incidentally, to learn the art intricately, Risham also had to learn Korean. “Frankly, taekwondo not only involves just kicks and punches, it is much more. One has to learn and understand not only its concepts but also the passion behind it,” she asserts.

Risham is doing her best to keep her focus on Olympics 2008, but she remains worried, and understandably so.  Her earnings are not sufficient for her training. She would like to train double the hours but she has no money for it. So far nobody has come forward to finance her training. One hopes that somebody will come forward to support this first Asian Taekwondo Champion in the UK so that she could make us proud.