For 21-year-old Jyoti Surekha Vennam, who is all set to receive the Arjuna Award for archery on Tuesday, it’s a dream come true. All thanks to her family that introduced her to sports at a very early age.
When she was four, she set a record in the Limca Book of World Records for having swam across River Krishna thrice in 3 hours 20 minutes and six seconds, covering a distance of five kilometers. Her father Surendra Kumar says, “She learnt swimming very quickly and used to swim with other 20-year-olds and the coach realised she had very good endurance. My wife, my father and I were Kabaddi players. After Jyoti was born, we moved to Vijayawada from Guntur to access better sports facilities. People laughed then, but now I’m proud that it’s paying off.”
As a promising swimmer, why did she switch sports? “There were no international coaches in Vijayawada and I would have had to go to Bangalore. I was quite young then and my parents didn’t want to send me so far away. After some research, we settled on archery,” she says. The beginning was shaky, but the go-getter that Jyoti is, she didn’t give up. “I loved being in the water and initially, I didn’t want to do archery. But as I got better at the sport, I knew this was for me!” she says. Jyothi is hopeful about the sport. She says, “Every sport has its own importance but if archery got even half the popularity that cricket and badminton are getting, it would be great. But I’m glad to say that women in sports are being duly recognised.”
Ask her what the high point in her career has been and she says, “The most special moments were when I bagged an Asian Games Medal in 2014 and won the Asian Games Championship in 2015. The Arjuna Award, of course, is a cherry on top. My goal now is to win an individual medal in the Senior World Championship.”
Jyoti owes it all to her family. “Archery is an expensive sport and there were moments when I thought my parents are spending too much for me. But my father would say, ‘When you’re trying to achieve something big, we shouldn’t worry much about finances’. He would just ask me to focus on the result,” she explains.
She has travelled to around 12 countries for her tournaments. “The country I liked best was Turkey because of its beaches. I am an introvert. I don’t make conversation unless someone comes up to me first. This troubled me sometimes, but I’ve made peace with it,” she says.
But the young girl not only aces archery but also hits the bullseye in academics. “I’ve finished my B.Tech and I’m now pursuing my MBA. I don’t like to spend much time on studies. I remember things after listening to them just once,” she says, as her father proudly recalls how she got 90% in her Class X exams. “She bagged a medal in Rajasthan and had written the exam soon after getting off the plane. Yet, she did so well,” he says.