Published: 23rd February 2020
Guru Nanak Dev University student wins epee gold in the fencing competition at Khelo India University Games
The fencer from Rohru in Shimla district started fencing almost 15 years back at the behest of her cousin Jiteshwar Dutta, a fencer and a part-time coach
The 22-year-old diminutive epee specialist underlined her growing stature in the sport as she beat Linthoi Haobam of Manipur University in the final. Just back from a highly productive stint in France, at the International Fencing Federation's High Performance Centre, Jyotika used that experience to bail herself out of a tricky start.
"Adversity teaches you a lot. I had some rough starts but was determined not to make the same mistakes in the knockouts," she said, brushing aside her two defeats in the group stage. Up against an opponent at least six inches taller than her in Yashkeerat Hayer, Jyotika raced to a five-point lead and completed an emphatic 15-5 win.
But the final was a much tougher proposition, with Manipur's Linthoi matching her point by point. Yet, Jyotika, from Himachal Pradesh, prevailed 15-14 in a tense contest, using her small frame and quick feet to her advantage.
The fencer from Rohru in Shimla district started fencing almost 15 years back at the behest of her cousin Jiteshwar Dutta, a fencer and a part-time coach. No one around her, in her small town, had ever heard of the sport. "In the early days my cousin would train me. He would procure the equipment and teach me the basics. I was a sprinter earlier so I was obviously fitter than most girls my age," she said.
After that Jiteshwar registered her for a trial at NIS Patiala. It has become Jyotika's home since then. She took part in the 2018 Asian Games and reached the quarterfinals. A B.Ped student, Jyotika explained how her stint in France has helped her mature as a fencer.
"Being around Olympians, world champions was huge for me. Nathalie Moellhausen, the world champion in epee, was training there. Watching her train, and seeing her brilliance even though she is almost a decade older than me was hugely inspiring," she said.
"Competitions are the most important thing for an athlete's growth. Unfortunately fencing is not really a popular sport in India. There are very few competitions to participate in. Having it at the University Games is a huge boost for the sport and for us too. Hopefully some more kids will pick it up," she signed off.