Shooting arrows by the river!

A misunderstanding between ace archer Vennam Jyothi Surekha and her parent Association has led to a curious situation. J. R. Shridharan reports.

Vijayawada’s 17-year-old Vennam Jyothi Surekha is the country’s top compound archer and she is tipped for a podium finish in the Incheon Asian Games in September. She is now in the Indian camp in Patiala along with eight others to make the cut to the final quartet.

In the process of making it to the camp, the precocious teenager was put to acute mental agony courtesy the Krishna District Archery Association (KDAA), her parent outfit in Andhra Pradesh. A misunderstanding between Surekha’s father Surendra Kumar and the KDAA administrators forced her to miss to Senior National archery championship in Jharkhand in December 2013. She was the defending champion, but could not occupy the shooting-line owing to some flimsy reasons which surprised all and sundry in the archery fraternity. In fact, her absence took the sheen off the contest and Andhra Pradesh returned home without any medal.

“Surekha could not make it (to the event) as she was not selected for the Andhra Pradesh team. She was denied selection by Krishna District as she refused to sign a contract with the KDAA,” discloses Surendra.

KDAA, keen to keep its house in order, has come out with a contract and sought the signature of the archers trained by the association. “Archers are taking things for granted. There is no sense of gratitude and some are indulging in all sorts of acts disrespecting their association. They are violating the rules and the contract is meant to bring some order,” justifies a senior administrator.

Certain clauses like a ban on interacting with the media and training under coaches suggested by the association did not go down well with the World No. 22 archer. In fact many construe that Surekha’s training stint with the former World No.1 compound archer Reo Wilde at Idaho (USA) was one of the reasons for the widening of the differences between the archer and the association. Many felt the association which was promoting Jaime Natty of Robinhood Archery Academy in California for decades felt irked when Surekha preferred Reo to Natty to train with.

“We felt Reo was the apt archer to fine-tune Surekha. We sent her by spending our own money. In fact, Surekha’s performance witnessed a surge after the brief stint. She, when in doubt, is still in touch with him through e-mails,” says Surendra.

Surekha’s differences with KDAA proved costly as she was forced to bid adieu to the Volga Archery Academy, run by Cherukuri Satynarayana, who is also a KDAA administrator. With no place to train and no coach to guide, Surekha is training in an open field on the banks of the river Krishna with the help of her father.

Surekha with the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy at a Rachchabanda programme in November 2013.-

The sports fraternity of Vijayawada is peeved at the war of words and acts of haste by both the camps. “This Vijayawada city girl is close to winning a medal in the Asian Games. It is time the warring groups came together to help the teenager reach the goal,” says District Sports Development Officer P. Ramakrishna.

Surekha, based on her last year’s stupendous show, qualified to take part in the fourth National Ranking Archery Tournament last month. She pipped P. Lily Chanu 143-141 to win the women’s compound title at New Delhi's Yamuna Sports Complex.

The talented archer from the Guntur-based Koneru Lakshmaiah University recorded emphatic victories over S. Jayalakshmi 146-138 in the quarterfinals and Manjudha Soy 142-133 in the semifinals.

This was her fourth NRAT crown after registering wins in the Hyderabad, Delhi and Aurangabad legs. With 60 points she emerged as India’s No. 1 compound archer. “I want to keep all the unsavoury incidents behind and concentrate on my shooting,” says Surekha, who won a silver medal in the double-fifty event of the all-India inter-universities tournament that concluded in Chandigarh by the end of January.