Bhubaneswar, February 22:If there is living proof of the fact that size does not matter, it is in the form of Jyotika Dutta, the epee specialist who has taken the Indian fencing world by storm. Petite, lean and more often than not the shorter fencer in competition, she is also almost always the one who comes out on top.
Jyotika emerged as a highly touted prospect at the Asian Games 2018, powering her way to the quarterfinals in the épée event. It has been two years since, and she is still climbing her way up to the higher echelons of the sport. Back from a recent stint in France, she entered the fencing field as one of the favourites and despite two losses in the group stages pulled herself back to make the individual girls épée finals.
“Adversity teaches you something,” she said on the sidelines of the event. “I had some rough starts in the group stages and didn’t want to make the same mistakes in the knockouts.” And sure enough she didn’t. Up against an opponent at least six inches taller than her in Yashkeerat Hayer, Jyotika raced to a five point lead and never looked in any trouble of giving it up racing through to the final with an emphatic 15-5 win.
The 22-year-old from Rohru started fencing almost 15 years back at the behest of her cousin Jiteshwar Dutta. 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 equipment and get it and teach me the basics,” she says. “I was a sprinter earlier so I was obviously fitter than most girls my age.” Almost immediately her talent was obvious, obvious enough for Jiteshwar -- a fencer and a coach himself -- to register her for a trial at NIS Patiala. It is where Jyotika has been ever since.
A B.Ped student at Gugu Nanak Dev University, Amritsar Jyotika was part of the fencing team that spent a long time in France training at the International Fencing federation’s high performance centre. “Being around Olympians, World champions was huge for me,” she says. “Nathalie Moellhausen, the world champion in the epee was training there. Watching her train, and seeing her brilliance despite the fact that she is almost a decade older to me was hugely inspiring.”
“Competitions are perhaps the most important thing for an athlete’s personal growth,” she says. “Unfortunately fencing isn’t really the most popular sport in India. There are 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.