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The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games are a few days away from now, and things have grown exciting in the Archery camp where the 22-year-old Jyothi Surekha Vennam from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh is gearing up to bring more glory to the Nation. The star archer from down south has been prolific of late. Just a few days back, at the Berlin World Cup, she won two medals- silver in the women's team event and bronze in the mixed team. This win ensured her entry into the World Cup Finals which are scheduled to take place in end-September at Samsun, Turkey. Surekha, who now boasts of 27 International medal wins, is the demure and soft-spoken young woman who keeps her feet planted on the ground and doesn't let her success carry her away. Speaking to The Bridge in an exclusive interview, Surekha was at her humble best. The Braveheart with a passion for swimming, she has records of crossing the Krishna river three times with a distance of 5 km in three hours, 20 minutes and six seconds, is quite the champion from an early age. After having an up and running internationally acclaimed career as an archer, Jyothi confesses how it all began. "My parents pushed me to join archery initially. My parents had chosen the game, and they shifted me from swimming to archery." But the AP girl hasn't forgotten her love for being a water-baby and asserted, "Swimming is my favourite." Her recent win at Berlin hoisted her medal haul for the World Cup season to 6 - three silver medals and as many bronzes. The soft-spoken Surekha is elated on qualifying for the Turkey finals and says, "I am very excited and looking forward to it!" By total medal count, Jyothi's tally is the best by an Indian compound archer and the second best by any Indian archer. Topping the list of medals is recurve specialist Deepika Kumari who won a total of eight in 2011.
Balancing Archery and EducationAfter a B.Tech degree in Computer Science, Surekha is pursuing an MBA and still managing to make time for archery and creating records and making the nation proud while she is at it. Jyothi, however, is aware of the problems plaguing the sport of archery in our nation. Being involved in a nasty case with the State a few months back in May, Jyothi had announced that she would sit on an "indefinite hunger strike" if the SAAP refused to hand over the promised Rs. 1 crore post being honoured as an Arjuna Awardee in 2017. Jyothi seems to have waded past those muddy water but is conscious that the water ahead is far more troubled. With a tinge of optimism ringing in her voice, Jyothi says, "Archery is in a bad state. There are many problems right now. They(the government) are trying to overcome all the problems. It cannot happen over one day. " Jyothi finds hope for archery and all other sports in the state of Andhra primarily due to the efforts of the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu. "The Chief Minister is very supportive to all the sports. He is encouraging all sports in AP. We are glad he is focussing much on sports. But everything takes time. But things have improved," Jyothi admits. Currently honing her skills at the preparatory camp for Asiad in Sonepat, Jyothi is impatient to hit the bulls-eye in the Asian Games scheduled for next month. The youngster has been the talking point ever since she displayed her prowess in compound archery in mixed and team events. Despite all her success, she stays humble and hungry for more. The spirited but shy 22-year-old likes to take one step at a time and hence doesn't let her concentration waver, "The main focus is on Asian Games now!", she says sweetly before signing off!