With 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games on mind, Manipur’s judoka Sushila Devi plans to compete in a series of Grand Slam events

Sushila Devi Likmabam in action at Tokyo 2020 (Picture by International Judo Federation)
Sushila Devi Likmabam in action at Tokyo 2020 (Picture by International Judo Federation)
Navneet Singh

Competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games was a huge learning curve for me, said Manipur’s international judo player Sushila Devi. It was a different matter: the 25-year-old 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist crashed out in her opening bout of women’s 48 kg category at the Summer Olympic Games held between July 23 and August 8 in Japan.

According to Sushila, it was lack of experience that attributed to her first round exit at the Olympic Games.

“In the build up to the Tokyo Olympic Games I competed in seven to eight international events in one year. Whereas judokas from European nations competed in more than 30 competitions in a year. The lack of experience was the root cause of the not so encouraging performance in Japan,” said Sushila on not making an impression on her debut at the Olympic Games.

Putting her disappointment show at the Tokyo Olympic Games to rest, the Manipur judoka has set her eyes on the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which are more than nine months away.

Based out of Bellary in Karnataka, Sushila has started toiling on the mat with sparring partners.

Sushila Devi is hoping to improve on her performance at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in 2022

According to Sushila, her goal is to improve the color of the medal she won at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games (CWG).

“The Commonwealth Games have a special place in my heart. In the 2014 edition of the CWG in Glasgow I won silver in women’s 48kg category. It gave a big boost to my confidence. At the next year’s Commonwealth Games my main goal is to win gold,” Sushila said after her Thursday morning session.

Judo discipline didn’t feature in the 2018 edition of the Commonwealth Games held in Australia. Olympic discipline is back on the roster for the 2022 edition of the CWG, scheduled to be held from July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham.

Moving forward to achieve her goal in 2022, Sushila’s first step is to compete at the Grand Slam tournament scheduled to be held in the first week of December in Beirut, Lebanon.

“I am planning to compete in Beirut. From November to March there are more than half a dozen Grand Slam competitions. It will be a big advantage if the Judo Federation of India (JFI) sends the national team to compete in all the competitions,” added Sushila.

Sushila’s coach Jiwan Sharma is also working on an exposure tour of Europe early next year. The European clubs have started practicing but athletes from outside Europe aren’t allowed due to pandemic. We will have to wait for the right time to go, said the Indian coach.

“We have plans to practice in Europe early next year. The big advantage of training in Europe is that there are opportunities to compete in weekend competitions. The valuable ranking points earned during competition is a big advantage when the seedings are drawn during major competition like CWG or the Asian Games,” said the coach.

Sushila qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games through continental quota in June. Since it was uncertain whether she would make the cut or not, the overall preparation for the Olympics wasn’t planned in advance.

A better domestic judo events calender will be helpful, says Sushila Devi

She went to France for a short training stint before the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Sushila believes that a strong domestic circuit is a better way to prepare for major international events.

“We should have a robust domestic calendar. There should be as many as 20 competitions in one year. Currently, there is just one senior national championships,” she said.

The international judoka from Manipur said on average there should be a minimum of two competitions per month on the domestic circuit.

“The more competition we compete, the better. To excel at the world level, we need to compete at 30 to 40 competitions in a year,” said Sushila who was recently promoted to the rank of inspector in the state police department.

Edited by Rohit Mishra


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