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Pooja Gupta


 Hi. My name is Jayalakshmi Sarikonda and I am an International archer. I have been a Shiv Chhatrapati Awardee, a Taluka Sports Officer (Govt. of Maharashtra). I am also a numismatist and an avid autograph collector.

It has been 16 years that I have been into archery and these 16 years have been phenomenal. I have felt victorious on each and every day of these 16 years, even if there was no match, or there was a match I lost!

My father had a burning desire to be a sportsperson, but unfortunately, he never got that support from his family. So he always wanted me to get into sports.

In 2005, when I was 10 years old, there was a sports camp organized at Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal (HVPM) in Amravati. I used to stay in Nagpur then and this is one of the biggest sports institutes in Maharashtra. My father introduced me to archery and got me admitted to the coaching camp. 

Soon after my enrolment in HVPM, I competed in the district competitions and qualified for the State level. I got a gold medal at the State level and then I was carried forward for the Nationals. I got a gold over there as well and then I got selected for the trials of the Junior World Cup and the Senior World Championships, Asia Cups and more. I got into the team over there also.

My mother and my grandparents who didn’t approve the idea of me taking up archery initially were convinced when I made it to the Indian team.

I practice for about 7 hours daily followed by 2 hours of meditation and yoga. I follow this schedule for 6 days a week and take a break on Sunday. This is my day of fun. I go out with friends, watch movies and eat whatever I want.

Each and every sportsperson puts a lot of effort and dedication in his sport, and everyone wants to win every match. But Superstar Shahrukh Khan, (who also wanted to be a footballer once) said –

Haar ke jeetne waale ko baazigar kehte hain and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Let me tell you about an incident when I played the World Championship in Korea in 2009. It was a match with Paige Pearce of USA. She is a senior player of the USA Archery team. It was a very neck and neck match, and I lost.

This match is very close to my heart because I was playing against Paige Pearce who is my idol, and to play against her in the same match is an entitlement in itself. I was the youngest player in the tournament and it brings a smile on my face to say that I gave her a tough competition, even when I lost!

I treated her to dinner that night.

16 years of archery has really taught me a lot of patience and persistence. I helped me to develop a never giving up attitude that has made me survive the most difficult situations in life.

I remember an incident of 2017 when I was competing for the World Championship. It was the selection act and I did well, rather I thought I had done well, but when I went close to the archery board, I saw the judges comparing my shot with that of a competitor with a magnifying glass. Her shot was 0.5 mm closer to the target.

I was so heartbroken! World championship is one of the BIGGEST events ever played. My life would have changed forever if I had gotten to play that tournament.

I cried my heart out but after some time, I realized that it is a sport and someone has to win and someone has to lose. If nothing else, accepting my defeat also makes me more humble, isn’t it.

Do you know something? There are many times in the tournaments when we archers are about to shoot and people around try to distract us. This is when my focus and meditation come into play. I have been meditating 2 hours a day from the past 16 years and that has made my focus rock solid, thanks to my father.

In these 16 years so many things happened to me for the very first time. In 2009, I was on my way to my first international tournament in Croatia. I was waiting at the Delhi airport to board the flight, when a cute little boy came running to me. He was holding a thousand rupee note and asked for my autograph!

That was the first time I realized that people recognize me and understand that I have done something for the country. 

I love being a sportsperson and I am proud to represent India.