KIYG 2023: Encouraged by his mother to take up fencing, Manipur’s Zenith wins silver in epee
CHENNAI — The phone of Manipur fencer Zenith S.H started ringing soon after his epee final against Tamil Nadu’s N. Anbless Gowin in the Khelo India Youth Games 2023. It was his mother SH Romola Devi, who was calling to find out what panned out in his match on Sunday.
Hailing from Imphal East, Zenith credits his mother for whatever he has achieved in fencing. She decided to push Zenith to take up the sport at the academy adjacent to their home.
Fencing is an expensive sport and Zenith’s father SH Arlex, who runs a neighbourhood grocery store, had to dig deep into the family’s resources to support his training till the youngster began making a mark on the national circuit and was selected to train at the Guwahati campus of Sports Authority of India after reaching the quarterfinals of the Sub-Junior Nationals in 2021-22.
“When I started at the nearby academy, my parents had to bear the costs of dress, shoes and the weapon. After coming to Guwahati, even though weapons are issued from SAI, my parents have been supporting me in every way they can. There were days when I could sense there was a struggle but my parents ensured that they wouldn’t let me feel that pressure,” said Zenith, who also has a younger sister.
The move to Guwahati wasn’t easy though. Zenith became homesick and wanted to return home. However, his mother motivated him to stay put and work on his skills. “Initially it affected me a bit, but then my mother would make me understand and also Guwahati isn’t that far off from my place,” he said.
A few months after he joined SAI Guwahati, Zenith went on to clinch a gold in the sub-junior Nationals and a year later followed it up with a bronze in the Cadet category.
He was also part of the Manipur team that in the previous edition of Khelo India Youth Games in Bhopal, which lost in the quarterfinals. But they bounced back in style in December 2023 by winning a team gold in the 18th Cadet National Fencing Championship at Mehsana, Gujarat.
Fresh from the feat, Zenith came to Chennai high on confidence and was understandably happy that he could open Manipur’s medal account at this edition of the Khelo India Youth Games.
Zenith also expressed his gratitude to the coaches at the SAI centre in Guwahati for their support, saying, “Whatever I have achieved till now is because of the constant support of my coaches at the SAI centre. They have been very supportive of my studies too, as I’m going to appear for my Class X board exams. The facilities at the centre are quite good, and our dietary requirements are properly taken care of.”
Zenith will now be participating in the epee team event at the Khelo India Youth Games and they are targeting the gold medal.
“We have a very good team and had a great outing recently. Hopefully, we can return with a gold, we are preparing towards that goal,” Zenith said while also sending a few images of the victory ceremony to his mother.