When it comes to sports, India is fortunate that its athletes find a way to overcome the impediments that its officialdom throws in their paths—whole areas fraught with politics and unprofessionalism. If India is winning medals at the Asian Games, it has been possible in spite of official bungling, due to athletes’ own talent, resilience and steely determination. The government does provide facilities and exposure, but it’s a mite compared to the odds athletes face.
Many of the stories of the Games medal winners so far, and those who may or may not win, are tales of victories carved through adversity.
Abhishek Verma and Jyothi Surekha Vennam
The fields of sports are fertile grounds of love. In Indian archery, rather, in the entire sports fraternity, Abhishek Verma and Jyothi Surekha Vennam is perhaps the only ‘brother-sister’ pair that forms a potent team. Delhi boy Verma and Andhra Pradesh’s Jyothi have entirely different backgrounds, but they have been winning medals consistently in the mixed compound event. This was evident when they won the silver at the Asian Championships last year and four bronze in all four World Cups this year.
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Now, they could pair up again at the Asian Games. Pairings for mixed compound is determined after the individual men’s and women’s ranking rounds. Each country is permitted to field four male and four female archers in the ranking round, with the toppers from each category get paired for the mixed event. In Jakarta, if they pair up again, they will face a tough challenge from powerhouses like Korea, China, Japan and Iran.
“Abhishek bhaiyya is like a brother to me. We gel maybe because we’ve been attending national camps together since 2012,” says 22-year-old Jyothi, who initially dabbled in swimming. Abhishek, an income tax inspector, too, had brotherly affection for Jyothi. While Abhishek comes from a well-to-do family in Delhi, Jyothi’s father was a farmer in Nadimpalli village, near Vijaywada. Knowing Jyothi was keen on swimming, he shifted the family to Vijaywada. She finally fell in love with archery, and discovered a caring ‘brother’ in the bargain.
Abhishek, though, was obsessed with sports, thanks to the proximity of his home to Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi. When 13, he set a national record in the Indian round (played with bamboo/wooden bows and arrows) of the sub-junior archery nationals, and hasn’t looked back since. “If I wasn’t passionate about sports, I’d have done business,” he says. Abhishek’s coach Lokesh Chand proudly points out that his pupil has scored 150/150 points the maximum number of times in the world among the current crop—and at least 10 times since 2013. Jyothi’s coach Jivanjot Singh Teja says her biggest strength is the mental toughness that enables her to handle tough situations. The rich brew of consistency and mental toughness could see the ‘brother-sister’ pair hit bulls eye again, this time in Indonesia.