India, a country with a lot of promises and a bright future, is being seen as the next superpower in the world. Many surveys and reports from big financial organisations have already predicted India’s economy to be surpassing USA’s and other big countries’ soon. But, when it comes to sports, we are still way behind. Even smaller countries like Kenya perform better than us in international competitions. One of the main reasons for its failure is the greater emphasis given to a single sport, more than the others.
Cricket, which is more like a religion than a sport, holds the attention of the entire population. Thus, other sports find it difficult to shine under its shadow. But, there are some passionate people who are fighting against this hegemony and are working day-night to make a place in people’s heart.
A 30-year-old newspaper delivery boy turned motorsports rider from Chennai, Jagan Kumar, is also one of those trying to bring motorsport out of cricket’s shadow and give it some recognition. For doing so, he is not making any different efforts but only following his passion and childhood dream, i.e. to become a successful motorsports rider.
His hard work is being noticed by people now. Jagan has recently won National Championship in SuperSport 165cc category and has become a seven-time national champion. This feat has not been achieved by any motorsport rider in India before.
Beginning of journey
Jagan did not have any connection with Motorsports in his childhood and he hardly knew about the sport. It was in 2006 when he visited the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) for the first time with his friends and fell in love with it immediately.
“I was always fascinated by bicycles in my childhood and used to drive a lot with my friends. I did not have any connection with Motorsports. But one day, I was asked by some of my friends to watch a bike race. We went approx. 40 km to Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) on my bicycle to watch that race. That was the first time I saw a real motorbike-track and fell in love with it immediately. I became passionate about bikes since then and still not able to overcome from it,” Jagan says in an excited manner.
Journey to the top is never easy. It requires passion, support, grit, determination, focus and a lot more. Jagan had everything for motorsports except financial support. And it was also hard for him to ask his middle-class auto-rickshaw driver father for any help. So, he decided to write his fate on his own terms and started working for his dream.
Recalling his earlier days of struggle, Jagan said, “We are three siblings including me in my family. I am the only son. When I told my family about my passion, they denied it. They thought it to be a life-threatening sport. They wanted me to focus on studies only. But I was adamant for it, so I started saving some money to buy a bike. I used to wake up at 4.30 in the morning and distribute newspapers. I was working in a courier company during the day. I was also going to a mechanic shop to learn about body parts of motorcycles in the evening. I used to work for that mechanic and in return, he used to give me knowledge about the bike.”
Jagan’s first bike was a second hand TVS victor that he bought in 2007. He started participating in bike races and getting podiums which attracted many sponsors.
“I participated the first time in 2007. In my first four races, I won two of them and was runner-up in two in one week. Those victories increased my confidence and I started participating in more races. Out of total 12 races that I participated in 2007, I won five, was runner-up in five and was at third place in two. I was on the podium in the whole session. In 2009, TVS Company picked me and my journey to become India’s best motorbike rider began,” he said.
A Lean Phase
Jagan won the novice championship in 2009 and moved to premier open class in 2010. But his fairy tale took a halt as he had to face experienced riders at that level. He started losing races and could not perform well in the next two years.
“2010 and 2011 were the toughest years of my career. I did not win many races and was way behind senior riders in the championship. But, those two years were also the best years of my life as I get to know about my weaknesses and improve them,” he said.
The year 2012 turned out to be the beginning year of Jagan Kumar’s dominance in motorbike circuit. He nearly won every race he participated in 2012. Since then, he has not turned back and is the undisputed king of Super Sports 165cc category. He has been continuously winning this category for seven consecutive years. He also added a few other feats to his golden run by winning Asia Road Racing in 2015, becoming the first Indian to achieve this feat. He was also the winner of National Drag Racing Championship in 2016 & 2017. He has also kept the prestigious Best Road Racing Rider award with him since 2012.
He gives credit of his success to TVS that he joined in 2009. He believes that the exposure that he got at TVS is one of the main reasons for his success. “I got a lot of exposure at TVS. They sent me to Asian Road Racing where I got to learn a lot from the foreign riders. This is one of the reasons that I am still able to manage my top position till now.” he said.
Hard Work is the Key
Hard work and passion are the keys to success. Jagan also feels that one should not think about results and keep focussing on work with passion and endless hard-work. “You have to put dedication to make things to work your way. I never think this sport as my career. I always wanted to take part in championships and win. I never think that it will give me any money. But junior riders, even before joining the sport, keeps on asking if they will get job, they will get career. They should only focus on their performance, rest will happen.”
He also says that Motorsports is still in its infancy stage in our country. And it requires more exposure to become popular. “A few years ago, only a few people knew about motor sports. But social media has somehow made this sport famous in our country. We are still fighting to get sponsors. Most of the riders are self-financing. Except for TVS, there is hardly any other sponsor who gives the job to riders. There is still a lot of work to do.”