Odisha man mortgages land to travel for Delhi kickboxing event, wins gold

Kickboxing is a martial art involving kicking and punching opponents in a ring with boxing gloves and bare feet

by Soumayashree Mishra
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A 41-year-old primary schoolteacher from Odisha’s Sundargarh district won a gold medal this week at an international kickboxing championship after mortgaging his land to fund his trip to New Delhi.

 

Billu Tirkey, who often takes up work as a labourer under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to supplement his monthly ₹3200 salary, won the gold in the 74 kg category at the second edition of the World Association of Kickboxing Organization (WAKO)’s Indian Open International Kickboxing tournament.

 

He defeated a kickboxer from Assam to win the medal, said Santosh K Agrawal, president of WAKO (India), which organised the event from November 2 to 6. He was among the five boxers from Odisha to win medals.

 

Kickboxing is a martial art involving kicking and punching opponents in a ring with boxing gloves and bare feet. The International Olympic Committee has granted it provisional recognition. But it is yet to be included in the Olympics.

 

Tirkey said his friends encouraged him to participate in the tournament. “…I have been doing kickboxing for over 12 years…[but] never [participated in] an international event. …my friends asked me to try my luck in the international championship…I did not have the money to travel to Delhi.”

He said his coach, Bichitra Jena, bought the railway ticket for him. “But I was short of ₹30,000 entry fees and accommodation in Delhi. I mortgaged 1-acre farmland for ₹20,000 and borrowed the rest of the money at high-interest rates from friends,” said Tirkey.

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