Source: Punekar News

Mallakhamb is one of the most popular traditional sports that originated in India. In Mallakhamb, a gymnast performs aerial gymnastic postures and wrestling grips in a show with a pole, cane or rope. The word Mallakhamb derives from the terms Malla, meaning wrestler and Khamb which means a pole, the term refers to a traditional training implement used by wrestlers. Mallakhab became a competitive sport in India in 1981, and since then, it has scattered in various parts of the world. A man from Pune has brought Mallakhamb on the international level by taking it to New York and Poland. This NRI's name is Chinmay Patankar, and he began practising Mallakhamb in his backyard in the USA, and now he has taught over 700 students across the USA.

From his backyard in the United States to the performance at the Statue of Liberty, Chinmay is a US supporter of this traditional sports of India. In the US, it is often described as ‘Yoga on a Pole’, and Chinmay teaches it in multiple states of the US like New Jersey, San Francisco, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, and also in Canada and Poland in Europe. Chinmay Patankar was introduced to Mallakhamb at the age of 9 in Pune, and he pursued it dedicatedly until 2003. He also won Maharashtra's prestigious Shiv Chhatrapati Award for sports in 2003, but eventually, education and career took priority over the sports and he flew to the USA after completing his MBA and ultimately, he settled there.

In 2013, Chinmay permanently settled in New Jersey and started thinking about the Mallakhamb again. And when he finally got his hands back on the Mallakhamb pole, his friends and the social media spread the news about his activity. A group of his Indian friends joined him, and some non-Indians also wished to learn Mallakhamb. This forced him to bring a safe and easy structure to his teaching methods, and he tried to start a small coaching class to encourage the sport. However, Chinmay Patankar's visa did not allow him to start a business, and he managed to start a Not For Profit organisation, named Mallakhamb Federation USA, in 2015, with the help of his friends, who have permanent citizenship, and his wife Pradnya. In the same year, Chinmay and his 15 trained students performed Mallakhamb at Times Square, New York, during the Diwali festival. Since then, they have performed at the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Centre of Performing Arts, Boston Children's Museum and other areas.

Chinmay Patankar and his wife Pradnya also invested in a few processes to form a certified course of Mallakhamb in the USA. This course is taught at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels, along with some coaches the Mallakhamb Federation of USA has managed to train. They have also launched a book, which is available on Amazon, which has sold 2000 copies online. The charm of Mallakhamb attracts many people, and the need for an initial Mallakhamb teacher kickstarted the process. Mallakhamb also helps his students to increase flexibility and agility which helps in other sports. It improves the immune systems and increases the tolerances toward allergic substances.

When Chinmay used to demonstrate Mallakhamb with young boys, some audiences doubted if the sport is gender-biased and aggressive at times. To rectify this misunderstanding, the Mallakhamb Federation USA involved girls as well. And now, Chinmay Patankar and his other coaches teach Mallakhamb to children between the age group of 4-14 years for a fee and to interested adults up to the age of 40 for free. During weekdays, he wakes up at 5 AM to prepare for work, and finish evenings by practising and concentrating on multiple initiatives to promote Mallakhamb. Pradnya Patankar is the president of Mallakhamb Federation USA, and she is Chinmay's partner in choosing the right coaches and attracting finance. However, attracting finance is the biggest issue that their Federation faces. The Mallakhamb coaches in the US request for large amounts of salary and Indian coaches face problems with American style and language of teaching Mallakhamb.

Chinmay and Pradnya are trying to create new coaches through the existing coaches. And they are also deriving a sustainable model where American youth can get certificates, earn money and make a career out of the Mallakhamb as a sport, and their 2 students have also been trained in Los Angeles and Philadelphia centres. To create more awareness about the Mallakhamb Federation USA, Chinmay and Pradnya are planning to get better exposure by organising the Mallakhamb World Championship, which is scheduled to be held in 2021 in Manhattan. Till now, they have trained over 700 people and they wish to involve 1000 more. There is a thriving demand from people across the USA to join the Mallakhamb Federation. Chinmay Patankar and Pradnya Patankar have incredibly taken this traditional form of the sport of India to an international level.