“The mantra of my life is that nothing is ‘impossible’, because the word itself reads ‘I am possible’,” says Kritika Khanna, India’s first woman para rower who hails from Jammu.
Kritika, who is not only the first female para rower but also the first para rower (in all categories) in the country, feels that her determination and ‘never give up’ thinking made her win hearts of many that inspired her to be a motivational soul.
Khanna saw her life turn upside down after she had to undergo an amputation, following a life-threatening accident in 2003, which left her bedridden for months.
Notably, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha in his ‘Awaam Ki Awaaz’ episode on February 19 lauded the grit and determination of Kritika Khanna asserting, “she is a true champion, unstoppable as an athlete and an inspiration to others.”
Speaking to UNI, Khanna says, “instead of becoming a burden to anyone and be bogged down, I chose to fight back and initially started gym for fitness.”
“I have a strong belief when ‘Impossible’ itself states that “I am possible” then why cannot I and with this spirit, despite rejection from several gym trainers, I never give up,” says a proud Khanna.
And finally, when one of the fitness trainers agreed to train her, after that there was no looking back following which she used to upload her work-out and fitness videos on social media platforms, says the para-rower.
Kritika Khanna adds “my social media videos connected me with specially-abled people and I started motivating them as well.”
“I always tell people that do not focus on what cannot be done but focus on what can be done and achieved,” Khanna says adding that she was approached by Kargil war veteran, Major D P Singh, who is also India’s first blade runner through his ‘The Challenging Ones’ group, which she had joined.
“Those days (in 2019), the Rowing Federation of India was looking for a female para-rower and Maj D P Singh recommended my name and I received a call. This is how the journey into para-rowing started,” says Khanna adding that Col Gaurav Dutta, her first trainer, motivated and trained her for the world’s “third toughest” sport.
Col Gaurav Dutta was 32 when during Operation Rakshak in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on the Line of Control (LoC) on July 8, 2001, he lost his foot in an anti-personnel mine explosion.
“I convinced my parents and finally in 2019, joined the rowing academy in Pune. After I became the first para-rower, the team of four was chosen thereafter,” says the champion with glittering eyes.
It was not an easy task to take up this challenging sport but strength and determination allowed her to take up para-rowing professionally and make tremendous progress, she feels.
“We always first compete for the ‘National Flag’ and secondly it is the ‘Finishing Point’ in the competition that keep us motivating,” she says, adding that in 2019, the para-rowing team won a bronze medal for the country and for everyone who believed in her in Asian and World Rowing Championships.
Kritika also went on to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Animations and then succeeded in attaining a MBA. She worked different jobs for quite some time in Jammu and in 2011 she joined the Grameen Bank.
Hopeful of invitation from the Jammu and Kashmir Government to train young turks, Kritika says, “J&K has no dearth of talent and if ever, I will be called for any special workshops and training sessions, I will always be available. And, I will never mind too in representing my home state if ever, a para-rowing team is framed in future.”
In a message to youth, the para-rower says, “you have your own potential and keep your eyes on goal. You are the best and unique. Keep polishing yourself with each passing day.”
From being an amputee at the age of just 18 to representing the country, Kritika Khanna is an inspiration to many across India.