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Running for her father, Jyothika steers Indian women's relay team to Olympics

From battling injuries to qualifying for the Paris Olympics, quarter-miler Jyothika Sri Dandi charted her comeback in style at the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas.

Running for her father, Jyothika steers Indian womens relay team to Olympics

Jyothika Sri Dandi with her medal at the 1st Open Relay Championships in Chandigarh earlier this year. (Photo credit: PritishRaj/TheBridge)


Pritish Raj

Published: 6 May 2024 5:51 AM GMT

Delhi: After missing out on the Paris Olympics qualification in the first round of heats at the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas, the Indian women's team was under pressure to secure a berth in the second round of heats.

With Olympic qualification at stake, Vithya Ramraj was replaced by Rupal, and Jyothika Sri Dandi emerged as India's hero. She ran a blistering leg in the final qualification race to book the Paris Olympics berth for India.

Jyothika ran the second leg and clocked 51.36 seconds. Her blistering pace in the last 100 meters of the second leg gave MR Povamma and Subha Venkatesh a cushion to finish second.

To put numbers in context, Jyothika had never run below 52 seconds in her career with a timing of 52.73 seconds being her previous personal best. But in the Bahamas, Jyothika ran two sub-52 races clocking 51.16 on the first day and 51.36 on the second.

"All of us are happy here and it feels really good to be able to qualify for the Paris Olympics after a subdued first day," Jyothika told The Bridge over the phone even though she was struggling to find a wifi connection.

Realising her father's dream

Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, Jyothika took up sports because of his father and made his dream her own.

"He wants me to go to the Olympics and it is very hard to win a medal there. We try our best to we try to give our best and at least do some good show there," Jyothika had told this correspondent on the sidelines of the Relay Open Championships in Chandigarh earlier this year.

Asked about her idol, Jyothika stressed that she is only in sports because of her father.

In the world of athletics, the path to success is often laden with challenges, setbacks, and moments of sheer determination. For Jyothika, this journey has been a testament to her resilience and unwavering spirit.

"I don't have any idols," she admitted. "I have taken up athletics to make my father proud. His dream is my dream now. I just want to achieve it and make him feel proud and happy," vowed the 23-year-old.

A topsy-turvy career

After breaking into the Indian athletics scene in 2021 with a gold medal and personal best of 53.05 at the U-23 National Championships, Jyothika had been inconsistent till the start of 2023.

Jyothika struggled with a couple of injuries and inconsistent performances as she failed to improve beyond the timing of 53 seconds.

A knee injury in 2023 hampered her season and after winning the bronze medal in the Asian Athletics championships, she found herself watching the Asian Games from her home.

Her father's unwavering support and belief in her abilities served as a constant source of motivation during her recovery.

"I never felt like quitting. With the dream of winning medals at the international level, I don't think I can quit in the middle," said Jyothika.

After overcoming the injury, Jyothika achieved her personal best in the 400m Open Championships earlier this year. She clocked 52.73 seconds at the 400m Open championships.

"Previously, I achieved my personal best in 2021, which was 53.05 (in India U-23 Championship) and then after that in 2024, in this 400 Open National, I achieved my personal best of 52.73. I feel good after injury," said Jyothika.

What's next for Jyothika?

With the dream of qualifying for the Olympics achieved after the qualification at World Relays, Jyothika along with the Indian team has a target of improving their timings.

Before leaving for the Bahamas, Jyothika had said, "I want to run like a sub 51. If everyone runs that we can compete at the top level. If it is like 52, or 53, it will be tough then."

While Jyothika is close to sub-51 with her recent timings, the Indian team need to buckle up as the first leg of the Indian women's team has been an area of concern that needs to be improved.

However, at the moment, Jyothika has fulfilled one dream of her father, and she will be onto another when she takes the flight to Paris in July 2024.

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