The athlete will look to win big in the ongoing tournament.

A huge cheer erupted around the stadium at the Jain University campus as Mallakhamb officially began its journey in the Khelo India University Games in Bengaluru on Saturday. When a few athletes started performing gymnastic postures on the Mallakhamb (wooden pole used in the sport), a 22-year-old Deepak Gawli was seen soaking in the atmosphere while he carried out his warm-up exercises just outside the field of play.

Feelings on participating in the tournament

“It feels great to be participating in the Khelo India University Games. I’m feeling a little nervous. Mallakhamb is being hosted for the first time in this tournament, so I am looking to give my best,” Gawli said.

Mallakhamb might be a completely unknown sport for many around the world, but for Gawli, it’s a sport he has grown up watching, “Mallakhamb is Madhya Pradesh’s state sport and I have been playing this sport for ten years. My father used to play Mallakhamb in Akhadas. But he never took part in competitions. The game was just a hobby for him and he played to keep fit. He inspired me to play the sport. But, I never played the sport in Akhadas. I started playing on a government ground near my home.”

Explanation of the game

When asked to explain the game in layman’s terms, the 22-year-old from Shajapur (MP), quickly obliged, “So there are three types of activities one has to do in this sport. There are rope Mallakhamb, pole Mallakhamb and hanging Mallakhamb. Each team has six members and they have to perform gymnastic postures in each of the activities. The team which records the most points in all three activities combined – wins the competition.”

Performance at India’s Got Talent

This is not the first time that Gawli is performing on a big stage. When he was around 12 years old, the Mallakhamb athlete was part of a team that finished second runners-up in India’s Got Talent in 2012, “I have been part of the team which finished second runner-up in India’s Got Talent in 2012. I also took part in the TV Show – India Banega Manch a few years back. In India Banega Manch, our team reached the Semi-Finals. We performed Mallakhamb in the TV shows, but over there, we carried out a lot of other Mallakhamb activities like balancing on a chair etc. Yogesh Malviya, a Dronacharya Awardee, used to teach us all the activities.”

Coaching

However, life has not been particularly easy even after starring in TV shows. Apart from being a Mallakhamb athlete, he is also a part-time coach, “My parents stay in Shajapur and I stay in Ujjain because it’s a better place for me to practice. Ujjain is 30-40 km far from my home. I also have a part-time job. I teach Mallakhamb to a group of children at the same center I practice in. I have been teaching for a year. The kids are from ages 5 to 12. Sometimes I demonstrate Mallakhamb in nearby areas of my centre and some kids get encouraged to attain coaching from me through the demonstrations. They also get to me know through the TV shows I have participated in.”

Biggest Dream

When asked about his biggest dreams and if he is looking to play for India at the Mallakhamb World Championship, Gawli intimated that he wants to stay pragmatic. 

“I have big dreams, but let’s see what happens. It depends on how well I can practice. I just hope that I can get a good job in Mallakhamb. I could become a tournament director in Mallakhamb competitions or I could become a Mallakhamb coach as well. I could take part in TV shows also, but if I can get permanent employment, then it will be really good,” the Mallakhamb athlete and coach signed off.

For more updates, follow Khel Now on TwitterInstagram and join our community on Telegram.