Delhi’s Judoka Tulika breaks glass ceiling, makes it to Olympics

- June 13, 2024

Delhi’s 25-year-old judoka Tulika Maan has become the first female judoka from the Capital to make it to the Olympic Games 

BIG BREAK: Tulika Maan, 25, has qualified for the Olympic Games in the plus 78 kg group

Delhi’s 25-year-old Judoka Tulika Maan, a Commonwealth Games silver medalist in women’s plus 78 kg group, entered into record books after becoming the first female judo player from the Capital to represent India at the Olympic Games.

Tulika won an Olympic berth on the basis of continental quota. As per the International Judo Federation (IJF) website, she had 1,345 points in her kitty, better than Olympian and heavyweight judoka Avtar Singh (1,244 points) to become eligible for one quota place available for countries who fail to win automatic berths for the Olympic Games. 

“It’s a big day for me,” an excited Tulika told Patriot

Tulika who competes in plus 78kg, however, didn’t throw light on her preparation for the Paris Olympic Games, which begin on July 26. 

“I’m training here in Delhi,” was all she revealed when asked about it.

Both Singh and Tulika were leading male and female judokas and were in race for the continental Olympic Games berth. But Tulika surged ahead of Singh as she reached the round of 16 in the women’s plus 78 kg group and earned 320 points at the Abu Dhabi World Championships held in May. 

Singh got only participation points (20).

During the 2024 Abu Dhabi World Championships, Tulika won round of 32 against Canadian Ana Laura 2-1, before losing her round of 16 to Japanese Tomita Wakaba 2-0. By entering the round of 16, she leapfrogged ahead of Singh, who competes in men’s below 100kg and had 1,244 points in his kitty. 

It will be a challenging task for the Delhi judoka to perform up to her potential at the Paris Games as she is nursing knee injury since 2022 and is yet to fully recover.

To stay in the race for continental quota, Tulika competed in as many as six competitions beginning February 2024. Her fifth-place finish at the Asian Championships in April was the best performance this season and it earned her 252 valuable points. She also reached the round of 16 at the 2024 Baku Grand Slam and got 160 points. 

Lack of sponsors

Given the judo scenario at the state and national level, Tulika’s journey must have been an uphill task. 

The Judo Federation of India (JFI) is being run by an administrator (a retired judge) for the past two years as the officials of JFI are fighting a legal battle in court. Since the JFI officials also did not follow the National Sports Code of 2011 for good governance, the Delhi state body too has been non-functional.   

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Judo, however, doesn’t attract sponsors for upcoming players either at the state or national level due to poor governance of the national body. Hence players have to find ways and means on their own.

Tulika was lucky to have support from the government which enabled her to compete at several international competitions to accumulate valuable points in the last two years. 

Government support

She got support from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. After her silver medal performance at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, she got further backing from SAI.  

However, Delhi’s 19-year-old Arun Kumar who competes in below 73kg and was one of the Indian male judo players at the Abu Dhabi World Championships, wasn’t that lucky. 

Kumar, a national champion in below 73kg category and who recently joined the army, hardly competes at international level due to lack of funding. 

“That’s why I don’t have good ranking points to stay in the race for the continental berth for the Olympics,” said the junior Asian Championships silver-medallist. 

“I had applied for funds from the Sports Ministry’s TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) programme but am yet to hear from the officials.” 

Lack of facilities, coaching

According to Delhi’s college-going international judo player, Swaita, good coaching system and sparring partners play an important role in polishing skills. 

“There are hardly any good coaching centres in Delhi. So, I shifted to Bellary in Karnataka to practice at JSW centre,” she explained. 

The Dada Dev Academy, aninitiative of a local temple committee, in South West Delhi
attracts above 50 trainees
TEMPLE OF LEARNING: The Dada Dev Academy, an
initiative of a local temple committee, in South West Delhi
attracts above 50 trainees

Swaita also competed at the 2024 Abu Dhabi World Championships but lost her second-round match. 

“My ranking is not good, so I wasn’t in the race for an Olympic berth,” she added.

Temple of learning

Way back in 2011, enthusiastic judo players of South West Delhi, including Vinod Solanki joined hands to set up a Dada Dev Judo Academy at Dada Dev Mandir complex. Facilities at the academy have increased over the years. The indoor hall has equipment for weight training apart from a new judo mat. The centre attracts over 50 promising judo players, including girls.  

Last year the Dada Dev Mandir Committee appointed one male and female coach to oversee judo training at the complex. 

“We charge a nominal fee of Rs 300 per student to have a disciplined environment,” Harish Palam, president of Dada Dev Mandir Committee said. “We also give cash incentives and playing kits to outstanding players of our academy.”

Manish Chauhan, a former international judo player and coach at the academy said that Palam village in South West Delhi has a long tradition of producing international judo players (Vinod Solanki, Yashpal Solanki, Vikram Solanki are some of them). He was hopeful of churning out more champions from the current batch of budding players. 

“Our academy players had won 15 gold medals in various age groups in the state judo competition. In the long run the players should excel at the national level too,” the judo coach added.