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Ashish Kumar at Asiad

Flooring the world with his routine

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FAMILY AFFAIR: Ashish Kumar (left) owes a lot to his parents' insistence that he continue gymnastics

Ashish Kumar's success took its first steps in the confines of a little-known gymnastics school in Allahabad.

The bronze medal in the Asian Games will be one of the most memorable medals for Ashish Kumar, who created history by winning the first ever medal in gymnastics for India in the Asian Games. He finished behind China's Zhang Chenglong and South Korea's Kim Soo Myun. Earlier, at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Kumar had bagged silver and bronze - India's first at the event.

Nineteen-year old Kumar took up the sport when he was four, joining the Allahabad National Sports Academy founded by UK Mishra.

"I am very happy that my son has done the country proud, " says Kumar's father Jagdish Prasad, a technician with the Railways. "After his success in the CWG, I was confident Ashish will bring a medal in the Asian Games also. I want to see my son winning medals in the Olympics Games too, " he says.

At the NSA, Kumar trained under coach D K Rathore at the Allahabad Gymnastics Centre. He came into national reckoning when he bagged a bronze in the floor exercise event of the men's category at the Asian Gymnastics championship at Surat in 2006. This was also the first ever medal for India in the men's category in the Asian Gymnastics championship, mostly dominated by China, Korea and Japan. More importantly, more than 20 Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea, North Korea and Uzbekistan participated in the event.

Since then, the Allahabad boy has not looked back, performing consistently at the national and international level. Kumar, who works with the North Central Railways, scored a hat trick by securing gold medals in individual all round in successive Senior National Championships at Thiruvananthapuram, Warangal (AP) and Erode (Tamil Nadu) in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Kumar's medal-winning spree has won gymnastics much popularity in Allahabad. It has sparked interest among parents in this cricket-obsessed city. The gymanstics academy now boasts of queues of people seeking admission for their children.
"If Ashish repeats his performance in the 2014 Asian Games, I am sure India would win a medal in the 2016 Olympics, " says

National Sports Academy president Mishra, who is also vice president of the Gymnastics Federation of India.
"We have won medals in the junior category in international meets, but now we are ready to take the honours in the senior's category too. It's a win of the system and the nation, " he adds.

Kumar's medals also highlight the success of the NSA, which had modest beginnings in 1989, then built an indoor gymnastics hall and enrolled 150 children. In the following years, the Academy made a mark in gymnastics, and by 1992, gymnasts trained in NSA had started sweeping events in different age groups at district, state and national level gymnastics championships.

They followed it up by winning for the first time at an international championship at the Tulit Peter International Gymnastics Championship in Hungary, winning one gold, four silver and one bronze as well as the individual all around title. Kumar's medal at the Asian Games in China is only the latest in this academy's string of wins.

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