Chess player Koneru Humpy and shooter Apurvi Chandela shared the award for the Sportswoman of the Year in individual sports at the Sportstar Aces Awards on Monday. The other nominees in the category were wrestler Vinesh Phogat and archer V. Jyothi Surekha.
For someone on a comeback trail, I could not have asked for a better finish than winning the World championship in rapid chess at the fag end of the year 2019.
Arguably my best year and the tag of a ‘world champion’ means a lot to me, for that is what I have been waiting for so long.
As I am more of a classical player, especially winning in a format which was never my cup of tea is something which makes this World championship title all the more special.
In a way, the reason why I played in this format was not with any expectation of winning but to improve my performances in the rapid and blitz games as quite a few tournaments were decided in this format in the past.
I continue to look to my father-cum-coach (Koneru Ashok) and I don’t think there is a need for any foreign coach, though I am updating myself with all the novelties in preparations.
So, winning the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Series title and this World championship on my comeback trail will remain as special moments.
And, it is never easy to be a mother of a kid and still pursue your passion — chess. But that is the biggest driving force for me as I chase my dream of winning the World championship in the classical format.
Yes, I will be competing in more and more tournaments even while balancing my family commitments. I still believe that I have a lot more in me to keep competing at the highest level.
So, in this backdrop to win the Sportstar award was perhaps the icing on the cake and it also means a lot of recognition. I vividly remember winning the Sportstar Young Achiever award when I was making an entry into the big league.
Definitely looking for a far more successful 2020.
As told to V. V. Subrahmanyam.
The award means a lot to me. It feels great that my efforts are being recognised. I would like to thank the Sportstar jury for having chosen me. It motivates me to continue my hard work. I would have loved to be present in Mumbai to receive the award. But this being the Olympic year, I am away in Europe, training and competing to get ready for the season.
I am happy that my sister Tejasvi was able to receive the award on my behalf.
It was the best season of my career in 2019, till now! Winning a gold in air rifle, 16 years after it was first won by an Indian woman, Anjali Bhagwat, was special. And to achieve that with a world record at home in Delhi, felt fantastic. Becoming world No. 1 put the icing on the cake. And to win a gold in a subsequent World Cup in Munich made me believe that I was on the right track.
With so much competition at home, especially from the young shooters like Elavenil Valarivan and Mehuli Ghosh, it was nice to consolidate my position in the national team. The overall standard has gone up so much after me and Anjum Moudgil won the Olympic quota in the World Championship in 2018. It also felt reassuring that Anjum and me won the gold and silver in mixed air rifle in the Munich World Cup, with Divyansh Singh Panwar and Deepak Kumar.
It has been an incredible season for Indian shooting as we topped the medals table in all the four World Cups in rifle and pistol in Delhi, Beijing, Munich and Rio De Janeiro, apart from the World Cup Final in Putian, China. It gives me the confidence that it is not just me, but the whole Indian team that is gearing up nicely for the Olympics in Tokyo.<EP>Hope we continue the same momentum in 2020, and deliver our best performance.
As told to Kamesh Srinivasan.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, chess ace Vishwanathan Anand, The Hindu Publishing Group chairman N. Ram, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, Olympian shooter Anjali Bhagwat and Olympian shuttler Aparna Popat selected the deserving winners in categories involving young athletes, teams, coaches and parathletes.
The awards look to create a medium of knowledge and vision exchange as it brings all stakeholders of Indian sports under one roof.