KIYG champion Sakshi Shitole aims to compete in Tokyo Olympic Games

Sakshi Shitole broke into a knowing smile. “Before that there is the Olympic Games next year,” the Khelo India Youth Games girls under-21 recurve archery gold medal winner reminded the journalist who asked her if she had overcome the disappointment of missing out on the Asian Games in Jakarta last year and if she was aiming for the Hangzhou Games in 2022.

The 18-year-old, who traces her roots to Padwi taluk in Daund district of Maharashtra but has now based herself in Pune to realise her dreams, was a picture of composure from her first shot to the last that confirmed her a 6-0 winner over West Bengal’s Suparna Singh, who was left seeking her consistent form from the first two days that installed her as the favourite for the title.

“I was focussed on sticking to the routine and playing the same shot each time. The focus was not on the score or on winning set and match,” Sakshi Shitole, who has represented India in the Asia Cup competitions last year, said.  “I finished outside the top four in qualification. I was disappointed with my score of 623. For I know I am capable of better.”

She beat teammate Bhagyashri Namdev Kolte (Maharashtra) 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Bhagyashri was riding high on confidence after defeating Jharkhand’s Ankita Bhakat, who represented India in the Asian Games, in the first round. She then defeated Riya Tewatia (Haryana) 6-2 in the semifinals to set up a meeting with the consistent Suparna Singh (West Bengal) in the final.

She appeared for the 12th Standard Board examination between the Asia Cup Stage I which ended in Bangkok on March 9 and the Asian Games trials in Jamshedpur from March 15. Quite inevitably, she was undercooked and did not make the cut when the selectors picked the top eight archers from the first selection trials in Jamshedpur in March 2018.

To be sure, she had done well to score 1261 points in four rounds of shooting and earned a slot in the 12-woman round robin competition, but she then finished 11th there, winning only three of her 11 matches. The Asian Games dream did not come true, disappointing her. A journalist reminded her that she could target the next Asian Games.

“Before that, there is the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year,” she said, making her intentions and her vision clear. It is such sharp focus that speaks volumes about the single-mindedness of today’s youth. They want to challenge the best in India and be ready to compete with the world’s finest without an iota of doubt in their countenance.

She said she knew then that once the examinations were out of the way, her primary focus would be to make it to the Olympic Games.  She has now rented an apartment to be close to training centre, the Archers Academy in Shahu College, Parvati Paytha in Pune. “I am determined to not only qualify for the Olympics but also do well there,” she said.

Her first step would be to perform consistently in the five-day trials in Rohtak where the top 16 archers would be shortlisted as probables for the World Championship 2019 and the World Cups 2019. It will be a confirmation that she can walk the talk and deliver performances that will keep her in the race for Olympic Games berths.