Aditi Ashok downplays mentality problem despite repeat of Tokyo fumble
Despite her adamance that she had no change of mentality on the final day of the Asian Games Golf event, silver medallist Aditi Ashok's words reveal how the pressure of winning at multi-sports events bog her down.
Hangzhou: Aditi Ashok is adamant that it is not a mindset problem because of which she had to settle for silver at the Asian Games, but it is hard to look past her disastrous meltdown on Sunday morning at the West Lake International golf course here as a repeat of her stutter on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.
While she had missed out on an Olympic medal by the margin of one stroke in 2021, she became the first Indian woman to win a medal of any colour at the Asian Games with her silver medal on Sunday despite the late collapse. Despite teeing off with a seven-shot lead at the beginning of the day, Aditi ended up carding a five-over 77 to give up the gold medal to world number 206 Arpichaya Yubol of Thailand.
"It's a gold lost, anyone will look at it like that. I had a lead of seven shots, it was mine to lose. It was just a bad day for me, I missed a lot of fairways, which is one of my strengths. Usually I miss 1-2 fairways, today I missed at least 8. I never could get into position for any birdies," Aditi Ashok, ranked 47th in the world, said after her event.
She had shot a brilliant 61 in the third round on Saturday, thus making her the runaway favourite for the gold medal here, but suffered her worst day of the season on Sunday to relinquish her hold on the gold.
"I shot a five over par today, I haven't had a bad day like that all season," Aditi admitted.
"Till the 16th hole (third last hole of the final round), I felt fine. But when my shot hit the water, there was no coming back from that double bogey," she said.
Aditi Ashok continues to take Indian golf to 'uncharted waters', but she continues to show a tendency to falter at the final step when the stakes are highest.
Aditi Ashok's problem of pressure at multi-sports events
Aditi Ashok joked that this 2nd-place finish is an improvement from her 4th-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, but what she said revealed a problem she has with multi-sports tournaments where a lot of Indian attention is on her.
"When you are behind, your mind thinks of all the good things you can do to catch up. When you're leading, it's hard to get over thinking all the things that could go wrong, not that that's what happened. It was just a bad day, but it wasn't easy knowing I had to play well or bad to decide the outcome," she said.
Aditi said that she did not have any change of thinking or approach that can explain her drastic change in fortunes on the final day.
But something she said is reminiscent of what archer Atanu Das had said in 2021 about there being much more pressure on Indian athletes at multi-sports tournaments like Olympics and Asian Games, such that they forget to play their natural game. "When we win World Cups, nobody knows. When we become number one, nobody knows. But in the Olympics, everybody knows everything," he had told ANI.
Aditi seemed to echo him unknowingly on Sunday.
"For me, I would take winning a Major any day (over a medal at a multi-sports event). But events like Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games draw much more interest from India. Not many people watch the usual golf tours, especially because they happen late at night on TV," she said.
Compared to the two stutters she has suffered in the 2020 Olympics and the 2022 Asian Games, there has never been any such instance on the LPGA tour for the 25-year-old.
'Silver medal boost for Indian golf'
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the gold medal, Aditi agreed that her silver medal can be a huge boost for golf in the country.
"Cricket is the biggest sport in India, all other sports are fighting for attention from media, support from government etc. Golf is one of the smaller sports even among those other sports. A medal at the Asian Games puts us on the radar," she said.