Jyothi Surekha Vennam gives India world champion potential

Jyothi Surekha Vennam wins international maiden gold in Antalya.

From record-breaking swimmer to archery gold medallist, Jyothi Surekha Vennam says perseverance and focus have driven her sporting journey.

The 26-year-old’s first love was the water, having started swimming at age three and breaking a world record one year later.

Vennam swam across the five-kilometre-wide Krishna River in Vijayawada three times in three hours, 20 minutes and six seconds, an incredible feat listed in the Limca Book of Records.

That was my biggest achievement in swimming, she said.

In 2007, Vennam’s parents wanted her to switch to another sport and together they chose archery. Initially, she wasn’t keen on the switch.

I didn’t know much about archery but once you do something for a long time you fall in love with it and I think that was the scenario for me, said Vennam. As I grew and learnt more about archery, it interested me and I’ve continued it from there.

She started shooting a bow at the age of 11 – and is now regarded as one of India’s greatest compounders of all time.

Having come so close to a victory repeatedly on the world stage, Vennam finally struck gold in her 20th attempt with her maiden individual compound victory at the Antalya stage of the 2023 Hyundai Archery World Cup.

Jyothi Surekha Vennam and coach giving high fiving.

Vennam had shot a stunning 713 to top qualifying in Antalya, matching the then-72-arrow 50-metre world record (then owned by Sara Lopez but now up to 715 and held by Ella Gibson), before beating Lopez to that important first win.

A week before Antalya, I really wasn’t that confident and sure of myself, but it was the first World Cup of the season, so I knew I had to give my best and focus on my shooting rather than getting a specific score,” the Indian archer explained.

I had never shot a 360 before, even in practice, but I shot it then and I continued to shoot really well and get the gold.

It has been a long and winding road to the top for the archer, who began attracting attention at the 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships in the Netherlands, where she finished third in the individual event.

Antalya was huge for me, said Vennam, who is currently based at India’s National Centre in Sonipat. There have been a few times when I got into the quarterfinals but then lost and I always thought, maybe next time I’ll win’, and I always really wanted to compete in the World Cup Finals.

I knew that I was on the way to more success and that the win was definitely coming.

Vennam has also won two compound mixed team gold medals on the international circuit so far this season – in Antalya and Shanghai.

But while team events are great, there is one enormous individual hump left for Indian archers to overcome.

The country has never had a senior World Archery Champion – and Vennam might be the best bet.

Having won bronze in 2019, she upgraded her world finish to silver at the 2021 edition in Yankton – becoming the first compound woman to shoot a televised perfect match on the way – and is just one golden moment from completing the medal set, and making history for India, in Berlin this summer.

This year is a packed major championships year,” she said. “I never think about what I want to achieve overall, every tournament to me is something new.

While Jyothi might not be mulling the possible, others are.

I treat every tournament as my first tournament.

Be it a stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup, the world championships, the upcoming Asian Games, or the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final – none of them is Vennam’s first event.

But that combination of experience, talent and level-headedness, might just bring India’s first major champion.