This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The resolve of an athlete comes to the fore when the going gets tough. India’s women wushu player Yumnam Sanathoi Devi showcased that in abundance at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, as she recovered from a kidney stone operation on the eve of the showpiece event to achieve a podium finish. The 25-year-old Manipur lass also atoned for her disappointment of narrowly missing out on a medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games with her bronze feat at Incheon. Sanathoi, who is also a two-time World Championship silver medallist, works with the Manipur Police as a constable. She spoke about her Asiad journey among others in an exclusive interview.
Q How would you sum up your bronze medal effort at the Incheon Asian Games?
Well, I’m pretty chuffed that I was able to bag a medal for my country. I prevailed over Uzbekistan’s Kamalova Mubarak in the opening round and then I got the better of Mongolia’s Angidorj Amgalanjargal in the quarterfinals. Both the Uzbek and Mongolian opponents were no pushovers by any stretch of imagination as I had to be at my best to beat them. Then I lost the semifinals to a Chinese opponent and had to settle for a bronze.
Q You have said that you did not get adequate recovery time for the semifinal bout.
First of all, I was jaded going into the semifinal bout against China’s Zhang Luan. I had a day’s rest after both my first round and quarterfinal bouts, but the semifinal was slated the very next day after my quarterfinal bout. I don’t want to suggest that I’m cribbing, but the fact is I was not physically there in that semifinal bout. I hardly got time to work on my strategy for my semifinal bout neither did I get adequate time to practice for that bout. In fact, the distance between the practice area for wushu players and the Games Village was two hours. All these factors went against me.
Q You missed out on a medal in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, losing in the quarterfinals to a Chinese opponent and this time around you again lost to a Chinese player.
As I said earlier, my Chinese opponent was better than me on that particular day as I was not able to deliver my best I’m capable of.
Q Your bronze medal is nonetheless a magnificent effort considering the fact that you underwent a kidney stone operation a month before the Asian Games.
To be honest, I was not sure whether I would be able to represent my country in the Incheon Asian Games. I underwent my kidney stone operation in Bhopal and gradually took up training at the SAI centre in Bhopal. Physically, I could not push myself beyond a point and a bronze medal hopefully will act as a spur for the future.
Q You possess a fair amount of experience - you won the silver medals (42-kg categories sanda event) in the 2013 and 2011 World Wushu Championships in Kuala Lumpur and Ankara. You made your international debut in 2005 in an international tournament in Singapore. How would you rate your Asiad bronze medal?
Winning an Asiad medal is a dream for any athlete and I’m no different. Winning medals in the World Championships is equally satisfying, but yes among many international medals the Asiad medal will have special memories.
Q Who would you dedicate this Asiad bronze medal to?
My bronze medal would not have been possible without the unstinted support of my parents, Wushu Association of Manipur and my coaches Md. Islamuddin, Kuldeep Handoo and Rajesh Kumar Tailer besides my many well-wishers. All of them have played their part in shaping up my career. I owe all my success to them.
Q You work as a constable with Manipur Police. Now you can be optimistic about securing a promotion after this bronze medal effort in Incheon?
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Q What’s your take on the popularity of wushu in India?
Wushu has a long way to go as far as its popularity is concerned. The sport is very popular in my home state Manipur as well as in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh. Manipur has been dominating this sport in various national events although other states are also catching up.
Q What needs to be done to improve the performances of Indian wushu players on the international stage?
Foreign exposure is a must and in this regard I would like to urge Wushu Association of India to arrange more international exposure trips for us. We also need foreign coaches and if we get more international exposure and a foreign coach, we will surely win a lot of medals in major international competitions.
Q The 2015 World Wushu Championship is the next big thing for Indian wushu. Must be setting your sights on a gold medal in the big-ticket event.
I wish to win a gold medal at the 2015 World Wushu Championship. I’m determined to make a podium finish, hopefully if I stay injury-free and train hard I will win it. As for now, I’m leaving for Indonesia later this month to take part in an international tourney, for which we have a national camp in Bhopal from October 15. We also have the National Games in Kerala coming up in January next year.
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