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World Wushu Championship silver medallist Sanathoi Devi won't settle without a gold

World Wushu Championship silver medallist Sanathoi Devi wont settle without a gold

Suhrid Barua

Updated: 26 Feb 2022 6:23 PM GMT

wushuSporting accomplishments are a great thing for any athlete and so is personal bliss - India's ace woman wushu player Yumnam Sanathoi Devi is precisely experiencing the same - on one hand, she had just recently made the country 'proud' bagging a silver medal in women's Sanda event at the 15th World Wushu Championship held in China, and on the other she has lined up plans to get married.

The 30-year-old girl from Manipur is undoubtedly the biggest name as far as Indian women's wushu is concerned, but her coyness comes to the fore when probed more about her marriage."I have decided to tie the knot and feel it is the right time to settle down. I will take a break after participating in 2019 South Asian Games that will be held in Nepal in December," gushes Sanathoi after a training session in Delhi in preparation for the 2019 South Asian Games that will be held in Nepal.

Sanathoi Devi
Sanathoi Devi is undoubtedly the biggest name as far as Indian women's wushu is concerned

It won't be wrong to say that the Manipuri lass has made the World Wushu Championship a 'medal-winning habit' – this is for her fourth silver medal in this marquee event – she had cornered a silver medal in 52-kg in women's Sanda event at the 2015 World Wushu Championship as well as sewing up silver medals in 48-kg category in the 2013 and 2011 editions. Four silver medals in this big-ticket event throw up one question – her inability to conquer the final 'hurdle' and win the gold for the country. "I really want to breach the final hurdle and hopefully bag a gold medal in the 2021 World Wushu Championship. I have lost thrice to Chinese opponents and once to a Vietnamese opponent," says Sanathoi who first picked up kickboxing as a sport before her interest shifted to Wushu.

Sanathoi Devi
Yumnam Sanathoi Devi with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju

The country's top woman's wushu player has been doing the 'wushu' yards or 16 years now since she first started playing the sport in 2003. Every athlete relishes talking about overcoming the 'initial struggle barrier', and Sanathoi is no different. Sanathoi, who on the job-front, is hoping to get an elevation from her Constable position at Manipur Police Constable, quips:

I started playing wushu under the guidance of Maibam Surbala Devi around 2003 – subsequently I trained under Moirangthem Ibomcha Singh of Yairipok Bishnunaha, who runs the Amateur Institute of Wushu and a reputed International Wushu Judge and then later I trained at Sports Authority of India, Centre of Excellence North East Regional Centre in Imphal under the guidance of various coaches - W. Birahari Singh, M. Sachidananda and Bijender from UP. With the fourth World Championship silver medal I'm confident that I will get promotion as either Inspector or Sub-Inspector. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The Manipuri girl was bestowed with the coveted Arjuna Award in 2015

Apart from her big-bang performances at the World Championships over the years, Sanathoi had scaled a significant 'high' lapping up a bronze medal in 52-kg women's Sanda event at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, losing to China's Zhang Luan. Even today, she regrets not winning a gold medal at the Asiad and reasons out as well. She says with a tinge of remorse:

"I don't want to sound like offering excuses, but the fact is that I was not well prepared for my semifinal bout against Zhang Luan. I had a rest day after both my first round and quarterfinal bouts, but the semifinal was slated the very next day after my quarterfinal bout was held. There was not adequate recovery time for me to be at my best – and to top it all, the distance between the place I stayed for the Asiad and the wushu venue was more than two hours. You can imagine how tough it was,"

Sanathoi Devi
Sanathoi Devi still aspires to play in the Olympics.

In fact, not many are aware of the fact that Sanathoi nearly missed out playing in the 2014 Asian Games. "I underwent my kidney stone operation in Bhopal just one month before the 2014 Asian Games and I was not even sure if I would be representing my country at the Asiad. I gradually started training at the SAI centre in Bhopal and there has been no looking back after that," she opens about the tough times endured in the run-up to the Asiad.

The Manipuri girl who was bestowed with the coveted Arjuna Award in 2015, is not getting any younger but still aspires to play in the Olympics, even though Wushu along with Bowling and Squash were not recommended for inclusion (from a final shortlist of eight) at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. "I'm only getting better with experience and hopefully I will get an opportunity to play in the Olympics, and hopefully Wushu will be included at the 2024 Olympics," she signs off with dollops of optimism.

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