All set for the real test

SANDEEP SAXENA

The 17-year-old compound archer from Andhra Pradesh, Vennam Jyothi Surekha, is systematically preparing for the forthcoming major events — the Asian Games in Incheon and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, writes J. R. Shridharan.

Earning a berth in the national team for premier international events is no mean achievement. And when it is achieved by a teenager, it acquires even more significance.

Vennam Jyothi Surekha, 17, a compound archer from Vijayawada, has proved that she is systematically preparing for the forthcoming big events — the Asian Games in Incheon and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — despite facing stiff challenges.

Putting the dismal showings in the World Stage III (Colombia) and IV (Poland) fixtures behind her, Surekha topped the table with 29 points out of 32 in the selection trials in Pune for the World Youth Championships, to be held in Wuxi (China). Later, in the National ranking tournament in Aurangabad, she led the field by garnering 23 points out of 32 to book her ticket to the World Championships in Turkey and the Asian Championships in Chinese Taipei.

As a five-year-old, she swam River Krishna, covering a distance of five kilometres in a record time of 3 hours 30 minutes and six seconds) to enter the Limca Book of Records. She was a talented long distance swimmer before switching over to archery. Many sports administrators are of the view that swimming in her early days had helped Surekha build her breathing and staying power, which have come handy in archery.

“Surekha is a sincere archer and always willing to go the extra mile to achieve perfection. She uses her energy brilliantly while shooting and she knows well how to get the maximum effect out of each release. She is also astute in gauging the wind,” says the Indian compound coach, Jiwanjot Singh Teja, of SAI Centre, Aurangabad.

India’s recurve coach Ravi Shankar speaks highly of the teenager, saying Surekha’s selection to the Indian team for the World Championships is a noteworthy achievement. “Finishing on top while competing against senior archers is appreciable. She is just 17 and has many years to go. In fact, she is the first archer from South India to make it to the World championships,” he says.

However, Ravi Shankar feels the real test for Surekha would be in Antalya (Turkey) where she will be competing with the best of compound archers in the world. “Archers from Korea, USA, and Mexico are the hot favourites. Competing against them will be an acid test for her,” he says.

Many are of the view that proper gauging of the wind would be paramount during the World Championships as the venue is close to the sea. “One who properly gauges the wind trajectory will have the edge,” says Ravi Shankar.

Surekha had a tough time a few months ago when she was forced to quit the Volga Archery Academy in Vijayawada, where she learned the rudiments of the sport from the late India coach, Ch. Lenin, and his deputy J. Rama Rao. This happened following a difference of opinion between the academy administrators and Surekha’s father.

Surekha now practises alone with the help of her father in a paddy field close to River Krishna. “When she is not in the Indian camps, she is finding it difficult to practise without a quality coach. In fact, there is a dearth of compound coaches in the country. The fluctuations in her performances are due to this reason,” says the archer’s father, Surendra Kumar.