Published: 23rd October 2019
The secret to Judo hotshot Apoorva Patil's moves? Music from Mary Kom
17-year-old Mumbai girl Apoorva Patil who recently won big at the Commonwealth Judo Championship tells us why her biggest dream is winning an Olympic medal for India
Class XII is no easy journey. It is a time when most students worry about the upcoming board examinations and begin to think long and hard about the career they want to pursue. Mumbai-based Apoorva Patil, a judo prodigy, is no different. Except, she already knows what she wants to do in life. “I want to win an Olympic medal for India in the 2024 Olympics. That is my biggest dream. But my long-term aim is to become an IPS officer,” says the confident 17-year-old who won her first gold medal at the Commonwealth Judo Championship held at Great Britain in the above 70 kg category. Incidentally, this was only her third international event. Excerpts from a conversation with the champion...
Do you think judo is given as much importance as other sports in schools?
I don’t think judo is very popular in India as it is in other countries. In India, I think people like to follow hockey, cricket and football. It is a shame because judo is such a versatile martial art form – it can be employed in self-defense as well as to improve concentration and focus. It is highly beneficial for children to take up judo as it will positively enrich their lives like it has enriched mine. Also, you will learn to respect people as in judo, it is very important to respect your opponent (Judo means 'gentle way' in Japanese).
What is your pre-match routine like? How do you prepare yourself mentally for the bout?
Before entering the match arena, I listen to high octane, motivational songs from movies like Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. It helps me tune my mind into the ‘winning mode.’ During the match, I just focus on reacting to the opponent’s moves with counter-attacks. I don’t think about anything else and I am very ‘in-the-moment’ at that point as the aim is winning.
When and how did judo become such a big part of your life?
I was introduced to judo at a sports club in Thane when I was in class III. I tried doing the throws for fun the first time and was surprised at how well I was able to do them. So I continued participating in local competitions and ultimately took up professional lessons under my coach Devisingh Rajput when I was in class VII. From then on, there has been no looking back.
What role did your parents play in your path to success?
They played the biggest role. My father, a policeman, and my mother, a homemaker, identified my passion for judo and motivated me to take it up professionally. They did everything they could – from finding the best coach to helping me get all the support I need – to mould me into a good athlete. I am so happy that they did not say ‘studies first’ like most other parents. Their faith in me has paid off.
You must have a crazy schedule. Can you tell us what your daily routine is like?
I train rigorously for four hours in a day - two hours in the morning, which comprises mostly of running and other drills, and two hours in the evening where we have practice matches. I follow this schedule without fail every day, even on days where I feel like it is too much for my body to take because I just want to focus on getting better.
How do you balance studies and judo?
I am able to do well in both judo and studies only because of the support of my teachers and classmates at SK Somaiya Vinay Mandir. They make sure to get me up to speed on lessons or important classes I may have missed because of judo. Without their love and support, I wouldn’t have been able to come this far
Are preparations already underway for the 2024 Olympics?
In order to qualify for the Olympics, I need to participate and win medals in international events to earn points. If I am able to earn enough points in time, then I can qualify for the 2024 Olympics. So I am giving my best to every event that I participate in.