I always try to excel in what I do to bring more laurels for the country- International wheelchair Basketball player Geeta Chouhan
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Each step in life is a challenge and those who are brave enough fight these hurdles and set up new targets for themselves. Geeta Chouhan has been representing the country in Wheelchair Basketball and has also won accolades in Tennis. She is not out exploring the sports arena but has excelled in every sport she has pursued, Geeta still has many more sports to play and has no plans of slowing down yet.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Geeta speaks about her journey so far, the battles she had to fight past to get to where she is now, balancing her time between each sport, getting into racing and her plans for the future.
Q1. What inspired you to play sports and how has it helped you grow as a person?
Initially I wasn't aware of disability sports. I just came to know that there are some teams forming in Mumbai so I joined them in 2017. Although I was scared that people would make fun of me for playing in a wheelchair, I found it quite interesting. I went there and saw people in wheelchairs and crutches. There were coaches who briefed us about the teams and guided us. I wasn't aware of where I was going to play or at what level. I just saw the opportunity of playing and being part of something good so I took it. I felt good after I started to play because I didn't get opportunities to play when I was kid as I didn't hangout with other people that much. I never thought I would be interested in sports but the passion burned inside me out of nowhere.
Q2. Between Basketball, Tennis, 10k runs and climbing, which has been the most difficult sport to play and what makes it so difficult?
I've never thought about difficulty. When I did the marathon I just wanted to test myself if I could do it as it would help me with my basketball. I still keep doing small distances like 5 KMs. I was supposed to do 21 KM in Vadodara but the organizers got scared for my health after 10 KM. I like adventure so I've tried everything and I would like to try more things in the future.
Q3. 2018 was a hectic year which saw you winning championships in Basketball and Tennis. How do you manage playing two sports which require totally different sets of skills?
Winning the gold medal at the national championships in 2018 was overwhelming as nobody expected us to win and I was the highest scorer in the final. In Tennis, I went to the nationals for experience as I had little practise in the sport and wanted more guidance. As I reached the finals, my father passed away as I could not see him for the last time when I came back after winning the nationals. It was a time that i could prove in front of my family about my achievements, but his absence made it tough for me but i always try to excel in what i do to bring more laurels for my country.
Q4. As a senior player in the team, what tips do you give to the younger players and how was it different when you were the junior in the squad?
When I joined the team in 2017, a lot of us were new to the sport. The coaches guided us on how to play and what targets to set; when I got the opportunity to play I took it and now also guide the young players coming into the team. In 2019, two new players from Pune saw me playing on social media and contacted me for guidance. I met the players that year in January then through my contacts the team became bigger and slowly they got sponsors, a ground and even sports wheelchairs. Now the Pune team has become stronger and I am glad that I only showed the path for the team and then they took their own steps. Recently, few players have joined the Mumbai team, I can also guide them and then it's up to them to step ahead.
Q5. Along with diet and physical fitness, what steps do you follow to be mentally fit?
During 2017, 2018 I could not focus much on my diet due to financial issues. During the pandemic my body became weak as I was at home for a long time, in the last 1 year I have spent a lot on nutrition and have realised the stronger you are on the inside the better you play. Every morning I practise Yoga, mainly the breathing exercises to increase my endurance as Basketball causes a lot of strain in the body. While pushing the wheelchair, we are not allowed to place the ball on the lap and have to dribble at the same time. The net height is the same for us along with abled athletes and we have to take extra steps while doing it sitting down.
After practice I come home to finish my work, then in the evening I workout at home everyday and joining the gym here would be too expensive. I try to be as independent in every area and have taken some para bands and dumbbells to manage things at home.
Q6. What are your plans for the future and how do you plan to achieve them?
Two months ago I was in Coimbatore for training in wheelchair racing. I want to go forward and play in the nationals, internationals in racing and with the help of a few people I have got a sports wheelchair. I want to perform well at Basketball nationals in January alongside a few International matches and then get selected for Asian games. I also want to play at the Paralympics in Tennis and for that I am practicing as hard as possible to get there.