With a glimmer of hope, Jyothi Surekha Vennam makes the most of a second chance

For a world-class athlete, Jyothi Surekha Vennam accepts circumstances when things don’t work out for her. While athletes sometimes expect past successes to make up for their current shortcomings, the 25-year-old compound archer understands and accepts the unforgiving nature of the sport, where even one bad afternoon can undo years of hard work.

It’s perhaps a sense of level-headedness – a trait that any archer would say is arguably the most important on the range – that has given her a great comeback from a rough patch of recent times. India’s star compound archer was in fine form at World Cup Stage 3 in Paris, winning the gold and individual silver medals in the mixed events.

The fact that it was her first World Cup appearance this season made it all the more special.

On a slightly windy afternoon (as she recalls) in March at the national exams in Sonepat, things changed quite a bit for Jyothi. She was relegated to the B team from India’s top women’s composite archer who had a stunning 2021 season. Not being on the A-Team meant Jyothi would miss Stages 1 and 2 of the Archery World Cup in Antalya and Gwangju, as well as the Asian Games and the World Games.

To make the result even harder to swallow, Jyothi, who fought her way to victory at the national championships two days before the trial, had won one of the World Games quota spots thanks to her silver medal at the 2021 World Cup finals. Not many would object if Jyothi was feeling down until then.

“In archery there is no direct team selection. Every time we compete, we fight and prove ourselves worthy enough to join the team. It was always like that from the beginning. I wasn’t part of the team because I didn’t ride well that day. It’s not someone else’s fault,” Jyothi said scroll.in.

“Everything went well because we had senior national teams a few days before and I was the champion. In the trials, after a day and a half of qualifying and elimination rounds, I was still in the lead. However, all the hard work of the day and a half was down to zero by the afternoon of the second day.

“I can’t exactly describe why, but I didn’t do my best. Maybe it was because it was just a little windy that afternoon, not that I hadn’t experienced those conditions before. Or maybe because I was too tired to compete back to back. If you’re too tired, your muscles won’t let you work at the desired level.”

Whatever the reason, for her underperformance this afternoon, Jyothi took her time to come to terms with her fate. And as she did so, she focused on training harder to be ready should a second chance present itself.

“There are always ups and downs. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It’s part of sport and part of life. It took me some time to accept that I wasn’t on the team, but you never know when you might get a second chance,” she said.

“If you get a chance, you have to prove yourself. There’s no room for “I didn’t know I was going to get a chance” or “I’m not ready.” There must be no excuses. So I realized I had to be prepared and prove myself when the opportunity presented itself.”

Spending time with family and away from archery helped her cope with the disappointment. “It took me some time to accept it and come back and practice. I took some time off and went back to my family. I needed that time to get back into shape and stay in control.”

And then came the second chance when the Asian Games were postponed. With international events being planned, the Archery Association of India had previously decided to send the best archers to the first three stages of the World Championships after the March trials, along with the Asian Games. However, the AFI decided to hold new trials after the Asiad was postponed, giving Jyothi another chance to make the team. A shot the Vijaywada native would make the most of.

She won the trials and stamped her ticket to World Cup Stage 3 in Paris and the Birmingham World Games.

In Paris, Jyothi was in fine form and showed the talent that helped her climb to No. 3 in the world. Jyothi qualified third with a score of 706/720 and carried her form into the individual and team events.

In the women’s team event, Jyothi teamed up with Muskan Kirar and Priya Gurjar to reach the semifinals, where they lost to Great Britain. Another disappointment followed as the trio lost the bronze medal match after topping the first three ends. Despite coming up short in the women’s team event, Jyothi went into the final day of the compound events with the certainty of a mixed team medal, while still fighting for an individual medal.

Along with Abhishek Verma, Jyothi defeated the home team of Sophie Dodemont and Jean Philippe Boulch in the final to win her first gold medal at the World Cup stage.

Just hours after the mixed team finals, Jyothi was back on the field competing in the individual event. Despite a light drizzle changing conditions, Jyothi edged Dodemont in a tight semi-final to set up a final clash against top seed Ella Gibson.

Antalya winner Gibson went into the final as a big favorite after coming close to a world record in qualifying.

Jyothi matched shot after shot to the in-form Brit, forcing a shootout she would end up losing. Even in defeat, Jyothi found positives and things to be happy about.

“I had a great time shooting with Ella,” she said. “It was a tough match because up to the last arrow nobody could predict who would win because we shot well. I’m glad I was able to put up a tough fight with her and stay to the end.”

Next up for Jyothi is the World Games in Birmingham, but a spot at the World Cup Finals in Tlaxcala, Mexico in October may be out of reach.

Eight archers qualify for the World Cup Finals based on their results in the four stages. Four places are reserved for the stage winners, but these can be reduced if there are multiple stage winners. The remaining places will be awarded to archers based on the World Cup rankings.

A gold medal in Paris would have secured Jyothi a place in the final as a stage winner. Although Jyothi only competes in one stage, he is currently seventh in this ranking. However, she won’t be able to climb higher as she is unlikely to compete in the fourth stage of the World Championships in Medellin.

Had she competed in the first two stages in Antalya and Gwangju, Jyothi would have had a better chance of making it to the prestigious end-of-season event in Tlaxcala. But she’s not disappointed that she might not make it to the finals. Instead, she’s proud to have won her first individual medal.

“I’m not disappointed because I’ve never qualified individually before. I’m happy because I won my first individual medal in Paris. I did my best. Sure, maybe I would have had a chance if I had gone to the other world championships. But I’m okay with that.”

Leave a Comment