Hyderabad: Hyderabad paddler Akula Sreeja, who along with Achanta Sharath Kamal scripted history by bagging India’s first-ever mixed doubles gold at the Commonwealth Games, dedicated her success to parents and coaches who played key roles in her growth. Speaking after her return to the city from Birmingham Games, the 24-year-old said winning India’s first mixed […]
Hyderabad: Hyderabad paddler Akula Sreeja, who along with Achanta Sharath Kamal scripted history by bagging India’s first-ever mixed doubles gold at the Commonwealth Games, dedicated her success to parents and coaches who played key roles in her growth.
Speaking after her return to the city from Birmingham Games, the 24-year-old said winning India’s first mixed gold at CWG was very satisfying. However, hours before the summit clash, Sreeja suffered a setback losing her bronze medal match in a close contest. But she recovered quickly to emerge champion.
What is interesting is that Sreeja never focused on mixed doubles event in her career before CWG. She was paired with veteran Sharath, the most-decorated paddler from the country, for the Birmingham Games.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for me and my coach Somnath Ghosh has been working with me for the last 11 years. I want to dedicate this medal to them. I am very happy to win India’s first mixed doubles gold. I didn’t play many mixed doubles matches before it. We hardly had time to practice. Sharath anna came to Hyderabad for one and half days and we trained for three sessions. But I am happy to return with gold,” she said on her return to the city from Birmingham.
She said playing with a calm player like Sharath helped her. “He is such a senior player but he made me comfortable. Our bonding helped us win the title. Both of us were in good form going into the Games. He guided me throughout the tournament. Not just in mixed doubles, he also helped me in my singles matches as well,” she elaborated.
The youngster, who emerged national champion earlier this year, said the presence of Somnath and mental trainer Gayatri in Birmingham helped her. “My personal coaches were not allowed to travel with the team. But thanks to the sponsors Raheja Mindspace, ControlS, United Way, they could travel to the Games. They motivated me a lot. After losing the bronze medal match, I cried a lot. But they helped me come out of it and play my mixed doubles final well. I felt nervous playing in such a big tournament for the first time. But I wanted to give my best and I am happy I could do that,” she added.
Having achieved her goal of winning a medal in CWG, she next sets sights on improving her international ranking. “The international and domestic schedules will start next. I want to play more international tournaments and enter the top 50 in world rankings next,” she added.
Having impressed in the singles as well, she hopes to get sponsors that will help her play more international tournaments. “After the CWG, many people are aware of my achievements. I hope it will help me get sponsors so that I can play more international tournaments. I am thankful to my employer RBI, Hyderabad branch and Lakshya Sports and Dream Sports Foundation for their support. I could not have achieved it without them,” she revealed.
‘Staying in Games Village was a great experience’
The paddler also said that staying in Games Village with other athletes was a memorable experience. “For the first time, I got to mingle with other Indian athletes. Earlier, we used to see Sindhu and other star athletes on television. But staying with them in the next room in the hotel, meeting them in the dining area and getting to know about them was a memorable experience,” she pointed out.