India’s Sushila Devi Likmabam on Monday became the first Indian judoka to book a berth at the Tokyo Olympics when she sealed her spot in women’s 48kg through the continental quota. The Manipuri star is competing at the World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary, which is the last Olympic qualification event.
Although Sushila Devi lost in the first round at the World Championships, she managed the Tokyo slot after ending with more aggregate points than compatriot Jasleen Singh Saini.
In the first round at the World Championships, Sushila Devi started on a positive note against Chile's Mary Dee Vargas. However, she lost her rhythm halfway through the four-minute contest to suffer a defeat by ippon.
Earlier in April, the Indian team had to pull out of the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifiers in Bishkek after two players in the 15-member Indian camp tested positive for COVID-19.
The withdrawal meant India lost out on direct entry and the only option left was through the continental quota, where just the top-ranked judoka could qualify. Sushila is ranked 44th in 48kg and with 989 points in her kitty, she pipped Saini who has just over 900 points.
A constable with Manipur police, Sushila Devi, will heave a sigh of relief after fulfilling her dream of representing the country at the prestigious Summer Games.
Sushila Devi trained with a junior judoka at home during lockdown
Due to the lockdown, Sushila Devi had cleared up a room at her home in Manipur and invited a junior national judoka from her region to come live with her so that they could train together. Sushila had even agreed to bear all the expenses of the youngster. The plan worked out well as she never lost touch with the sport and made sure her dream of representing India at the Olympics was realized.
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Sushila Devi had earlier shot into the limelight when she came close to winning a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in women's 48kg but ultimately settled for a silver.
At the Asian Open in Hong Kong in 2018 and 2019, Sushila Devi won silver to keep her reputation of being India's top judoka intact.