Sreeja Akula ‘more confident’ after Commonwealth Games success

The 24-year-old paddler says she is happy with the way she fought back from deficits during her matches at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Sreeja Akula returns during her bronze-medal match in women’s singles at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Sreeja narrowly lost out on a medal in women’s singles but won the mixed doubles gold with Sharath Kamal.

Sreeja Akula returns during her bronze-medal match in women’s singles at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Sreeja narrowly lost out on a medal in women’s singles but won the mixed doubles gold with Sharath Kamal. | Photo Credit: AP

The 24-year-old paddler says she is happy with the way she fought back from deficits during her matches at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Paddler Sreeja Akula is buoyed by her performance at the Commonwealth Games.

“For the first time in my career, I felt very confident and could handle the pressure with a lot more ease right through the recent Birmingham Commonwealth Games despite being down most of the time in the matches,” Sreeja, who won the mixed doubles gold with Sharath Kamal, told Sportstar.

Sreeja was happy with with the way she fought back from deficits during her matches and was grateful that her mentor and coach Somnath Ghosh was with her in Birmingham to assess her game.

“I enjoyed every moment in the Commonwealth Games. Honestly, I am more confident now and I’m hoping to carry it into the major international events including the European circuit next week and then the World Team Championship.

“Yes, I need to improve on my backhand and bring in a lot more variety.”

For Sreeja, who is Assistant Manager at Reserve Bank of India, to win gold in her maiden Commonwealth Games was a dream come true. “I never expected to win a gold but it was certainly a target I chased. I dedicate the gold to my coach Somnath and my parents,” she said.

“It was disappointing that I couldn’t win a medal in women’s singles as I lost the third-place match after a satisfying show in the preliminary rounds,” she said.

What’s next for her? “The immediate target is to win a medal in the Worlds this October and the ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and hope to win a medal too. With Dream Sports Foundation, Raheja Mind Space and Ctrl-S supporting my cause, I am confident of winning more medals at the highest level.”

Coach Somnath said his ward “played amazingly well.”

“She played her best game in singles but narrowly missed the medal. In doubles, anyway Sharath was there so I was confident that something good could happen. In the doubles final, she literally dominated others.

“Though I couldn’t get the accreditation to sit for her matches, I was shouting from the gallery and she responded very well. Hope she will continue her form,” Somnath said.

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