(April 11, 2022) Ever since Suman got married, running the household was her top priority. Her life revolved around her husband Rajender Ambilpur and their two children. For her, sports was nowhere in the realm of imagination, even though Rajender, a Taekwondo coach, would often nudge her towards physical activity to keep fit. She hardly paid heed.
However, all that changed in early 2021 when one day Suman told her husband that she wanted to try her hand at Taekwondo. “Are you serious?” wondered Rajender. Soon, she was accompanying him on morning jogs, getting introduced to the martial art.
A few months of training, saw Suman shed weight and master the moves. In March 2022, on a flight to Manchester, England – the couple was geared up for the British Open Taekwondo championship. They fought their way into winning medals, and bringing laurels to India and Telangana. It predictably, took the Taekwondo world by storm.
“People now approach me for autographs. It feels great,” Suman tells Global Indian. For Rajender, who won 39 gold medals, one silver, two bronze in state, national and international Taekwondo championships in the past two decades, this was the proudest moment – as a husband and coach. For the 32-year-old Suman, her gold medal in the women’s poomsae in the under-40 category and Rajender’s gold in the senior men’s poomsae category, a silver in Kyorugi and two bronze medals in the team poomsae categories at the British Open are cherished.
The urge to dangal
From Bengaluru, the Ambilpur family shifted to Hyderabad four decades ago. Back then, Rajender’s father Laxman Rao, a cobbler, was well known in the kushti circles for being an excellent dangal fighter. “My father often took me for Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies, and wanted me to get into Shaolin Kungfu, and become a good fighter,” recalls Rajender, who had to drop out of school due to financial constraints.
A quick learner, he took up Shaolin Kungfu while working as a painter in car workshops to earn his livelihood. After winning a gold in the state championship (1999), he participated in other tournaments. Some Taekwondo coaches spotted his talent, urged him to take it up. He did, and he has won 24 gold medals since.
A coaching ray of hope
Financial woes put a break on his dreams, as Rajender moved to Kuwait in 2006 to work at a Ford workshop as a paint technician. He spent the next three years in Kuwait, working for Ford, and later with Ferrari and Bentley as a senior technician.
Occasionally, he would practice Taekwondo at the parks, which made onlookers curious. “The locals were impressed and approached me to teach their children,” smiles the coach. While his job fetched him 200 Kuwaiti dinars per month, he made 50 KD per hour coaching. “I taught the kids for an hour, three days a week and made decent money which I sent to my father,” informs the 42-year-old.
Back to his favourite sport
In 2009, he got married and returned to Kuwait. His wife, Suman, a BCom graduate from Ambedkar Open University, insisted on taking her with him or staying back in India. Thus, in 2011, he came back and started working at a German company, Wurth.
Taekwondo still was on the backburner, except his stints at coaching children. And Suman was busy with their children – James Raj (10) and Lakshya (11). “Lakshya is doing well in weight lifting while James is good at badminton. They, too, are sportspersons in the making,” smiles the Taekwondo couple.
By 2018, Rajender was training 150 students. “A student, Maheen Nawaz Khan became the first from Telangana to take part in the 3rd Asian Cadet Poomsae Taekwondo championship in Jordan,” informs the proud coach. Around the same time, he met his mentor and coach Jayant Reddy who saw his potential and insisted he participate in the Malaysian international championship.
“I used to train across different parks in Hyderabad. I was my own coach,” smiles Rajender who shocked many in his fraternity when he won a silver and bronze in Malaysia. His winning streak continued in 2019 in South Korea. But his coaching and practice came to an abrupt halt due to the pandemic. In 2021, Rajender resumed practice, and won several gold medals at state, national and international championships. “In 2019, he was part of a 20-member team which delivered 1,16,000 kicks in a span of an hour. Later, he set a world record with 1,686 knee kicks in an hour,” informs Suman proudly.
When Rajender was practicing for the British Open championship, Suman began showing interest in the sport. “I was taken aback when Suman told me she wanted to get trained. I realised she was serious,” smiles Rajender, who took her on a 5 km jog everyday besides giving her intense Taekwondo training sessions twice a day.
“Initially, it was tough but I was determined to master the sport. Luckily, I too was selected for the British Open,” smiles Suman, who went on to beat her competitor from Netherlands to clinch the gold. She won accolades for her swift movements – power kicks, blocking, and her husband couldn’t have been happier. Almonds, figs and walnuts are their energy foods before training.
What’s next? “Suman continues training and I’m participating in the world championship in Dallas this October,” concludes Rajender.