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Wanted to be a doctor but opted for athletics due to father's passion: Olympic-bound Jyothika Sri Dandi

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Indian women's 4x400m relay team members Rupal Chaudhary, M R Poovamma, Jyothika Sri Dandi and Subha Venkatesan pose for photos after qualifying for Paris Olympics, at the World Athletics Relays, in Nassau, Bahamas, Monday, May 6, 2024.

Indian women's 4x400m relay team members Rupal Chaudhary, M R Poovamma, Jyothika Sri Dandi and Subha Venkatesan pose for photos after qualifying for Paris Olympics, at the World Athletics Relays, in Nassau, Bahamas, Monday, May 6, 2024.

Bhubaneswar: An academically-inclined child is a dream realised in most Indian households and that's why Olympic-bound runner Jyothika Sri Dandi aspired to be a doctor before she realised that her father would be happier seeing her excel in sports.

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The 23-year-old from Tanuku town in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, secured 97 per cent in Class X while studying at the Montessori School at her home town.

But, her father Srinivasa Rao, a body-builder in his younger days, nudged her into taking interest in sports as he wanted to see her in the Olympics some day. That dream is going to be a reality in less than three months' time.

Jyothika was part of the Indian women's 4x400m relay team that qualified for the Paris Olympics during the World Relays in Bahamas earlier this month.

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"I got 97 per cent in class X and when I was in school I actually wanted to be a doctor. But, once I started doing sports, I could not go back and think about becoming a doctor," Jyothika, who is taking part in the Federation Cup here, told PTI in an interview.

"My father felt I have the talent to do well in athletics and bring laurels for the country in the Olympics. Seeing his sacrifice and passion to mould me into a successful athlete, I decided to follow his dreams.

"I did not tell him that I wanted to be a doctor because I want to make him happy. Till 2017, I did not have interest in sports but around 2020 I began taking interest." Her mother is a home-maker and she has an elder sister who got married recently.

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"My father was a bodybuilder when he was young but stopped as there was no support from family. Now he is a businessman. He is very much interested in sports and he pushed me a lot and he wants me to be in the Olympics.

"Because of him, I did not have to struggle much. He takes care of everything. So, now I want to fulfil his dream of seeing me do well in the Olympics," said Jyothika who has a personal best of 52.73 seconds in individual 400m.

It all started after Jyothika won races in school meets and that was when her father realised the talent of his daughter.

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"I used to finish first in annual school sports competitions in 200m and 400m and even in some races organised by clubs.

"He took me to the school PET teacher when I was in seventh class (around 12 years of age). I ran on the mud tracks at a college ground in my place. I started taking part in district and state meets when I was in ninth class in 2014." Between 2014 and 2021, Jyothika trained under Sports Authority of India coach Vinayak Prasad in Vijaywada.

In 2021, she trained under Ramesh Nagpuri, current national junior team head coach, in Hyderabad for one year during which she ran her then personal best of 53.05 seconds after which she was called for the national camp.

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"I got national medals, I went to World School Games and Asian Youth Championships but interest in sports, I did not have. Till 2017, I did not have interest in sports.

"To become a doctor, I had to opt for science but after class X, I took up CEC (Civics, Economics, Commerce)." Jyothika won 400m national U18 level titles in 2017. She won her first senior level national title at the National Open in 2021 in 400m.

Jyothika eventually enrolled herself at Siddhartha Women's College in Vijaywada where the principal allowed her to take 12th class examination without attending too many classes.

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"I could not attend classes because of camp and competition but the principal allowed me take the exam as the college supports sports.

"I have completed class XII and now I have started graduation but I am not being able to join classes once again." Jyothika said the Indian women's relay team can hope for a medal in the 2028 Olympics.

"Realistically, I feel it will be tough to win medal this time but after four years (2028 Olympics) we can stand on podium if we work hard," she said.

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