Sports

Supriya Jatav | The Unsung International Karate Champion

Quickly, think of a sportsperson? Did you think of a cricketer? Or a footballer? Or a tennis player? Maybe Basketball? Or maybe you thought of some player you just saw on TV or read about? Take a second. Think about why it was that you thought of players that fit this description.

As it happens, you happen to think of things most often that you come across most often. Be it on television, newspapers, magazines or even those hoardings that you run by on the streets.

What do you think this means? It’s pretty simple. Recognition goes hand in hand with the kind of coverage something or someone gets. Because well, if something amazing happens and no one is there to witness it, that ‘something amazing’ is as good as like it never happened.

Karate and Coverage

Speaking of sports in particular, in today’s times, it hardly matters how large the number of international accolades or highly coveted medals you have to your name is, ultimately things come down to ‘coverage’.

So goes the story of Supriya. The only Indian woman to have won a Gold medal in and to hold the title of the Winner of the USA Open Karate Championship (Kumite) and to hold the Commonwealth title consecutively for two years.

Supriya Jatav, born in an Army family, was leading the life of a basic 11 year old, when one day her parents decided to sign her up for Karate classes as a way of getting her fitness in check. Reluctantly, Supriya complied. Little did she know that this attempt at fitness was going to be so much more than that and that it would end up changing her entire life.

Karate soon turned into a regular thing that became an essential part of her life. She couldn’t go a day without it. Given she was a natural at it, Supriya rapidly learnt a lot in quite a less amount of time. She rose as the shining star of her academy.

 

Jatav, who always believed in short-term goals, decided to walk on the path of being a Karateka full time. She said, she never had a plan as such and that she was fortunate enough to have a really supportive family who backed her on every front.

Along with her exceptional Karate record, the 29 year old has a slick academic record as well. “Padhai me chalo aur Sports me daudo” (Walk in studies and run in sports), this is what her Sensei would say. When asked how she managed to keep up with studies, she said that be it at her college or trainging academy, she just kept meeting one supportive person after another who helped her maintain this balance flawlessly.

As per her, the highest point in Jatav’s life yet was at Asian Championship 2012, in Uzbekistan, when she beat a player she majorly admired, especially because she was the holder of a title that Supriya had dreamed of winning and win she did. She also added that the lowest point is when her Sensei isn’t there to see her perform.

Her favorite sports movies are “Enter The Dragon”, “Fist of Fury” and of course, “The Karate Kid”.

Sensei and Supriya

Jatav has a close-knit relationship with her Sensei. She emphasized that the relationship of a Karateka and their Sensei is and should be extremely strong. She revealed that she’d look at her Sensei and a glimpse would be enough for her to know if what she was doing was right, wrong or if she needed to change something.

Supriya loves to listen to Punjabi songs before performing. She has a special liking for Jaden Smith’s ‘Never Say Never’ from The Karate Kid. The first thing she does after winning a match is go to her Sensei and present her medal/trophy to him saying that all her winnings are his. Then she’d take her notepad out and jott any mistakes she might’ve made, down. “I’d do the same if I’d lose”, she exclaimed, reinstating how magnificent a spirit filled sportsperson she is.

 

Supriya’s Mantra For Failure

Her mantra to get over failure is to ‘not worry’ and ‘not overthink’. She firmly believes what’s done is done and there’s no use cribbing over it. Instead, she likes to focus on the future. Recognition is something every player or sportsperson is after. Because that is what fuels them to perform their best and Supriya seems to completely agree. She believes that to gain early recognition one has got to beat the best in that area because that is exactly what she has done and aims to keep doing.

Karate is a rigorous game and it is only obvious that a good player would not be left without a certain number of injuries. When she’d come back home after getting injured in her performances, her mother would nurse her wounds and say, “Yeh to medal ke pehele waala medal hai!” (This injury is the medal before the main medal).

 

Can’t begin to imagine my life without Karate.”- Supriya Jatav

Karate is such a majorly rudimental part of Jatav’s life that when asked to imagine her life without it or a parallel universe where her parents never signed her up for Karate in the first place, with a smile of surprise she excalaimed, “God! I’ve never thought about it and nor do I want to.” She is fully satisfied with the profession she has chosen for herself and says that without satisfaction there is no achievement.

An admirer of Ussain Bolt’s vigour and Chris Gayle, Supriya draws her inspiration from Rafael Aghayev, who is also a celebrated Karate competitor.

Surpiya is also an excellent player of Squash and Badminton. She is also good at shooting and is an amazing gymnast too. She happily mentioned that if she weren’t a Karateka she’d definitely be a gymnast because of her flexibility, agility, balance and mobility and then after self-realising and a giggle said that that’s just because she’s a Karateka.

 

Jatav’s Prestigious Yet Lesser Known Accomplishments and Accolades

In 2011, she bagged Bronze in the National Games of India held at Ranchi. And then there was no looking back for her. She went on to win the National Karate Championship, India getting her resplendent Golds in the years, 2013 New Delhi, 2014 New Delhi, 2016 Ernakulam and in 2017 Panaji, Goa, all in the Kumite- 55Kg section. In 2014, she also brought India a Bronze in the Asian Karate Champion Cup which was held in Tianjin that year. She has also performed stupendously well over the years in the Commonwealth Karate Championships; A Bronze in 2013 Montreal, A Gold in 2015 NewDelhi and another Gold in 2018 Durban. And finally she went on to win her most prestigious title yet, in 2019, the USA Open Karate Championship. Also she is the first Indian Karateka to have beaten Iran and Japan in World Championships. Most importantly, she happens to be the only Indian Karate competitor to have held the Commonwealth Gold title for two consecutive years.

Are you surprised? Filled with pride yet? Are you thinking why it is that you didn’t know about her? When asked, why despite having such highly coveted titles, such a dazzling set of medals to her name, and having had done our country so proud, not many people knew her, she very crisply said, “Neither am I a cricketer nor has a movie been made about me.”

With this controversially food-for-thought statement Jatav in her final message urged more people and especially females to join Karate because it wouldn’t just train them in the skills required for the game but it would also prepare them for life. From self-defense to agility, flexibility and good mobility, Karate has a lot to offer and teach.

 

Jatav’s Special Message

Jatav had a special message to covey via Startup Story Media’s platform. She thinks India is in desperate need for a strong federation that propagates information about and regulates as well as manages less-covered sports such as Karate. She expressed that such sports essentially need the government’s financial support and the media coverage that they deserve and that’s what she’d like to appeal for.

Supriya Jatav is the perfect example of what continuous hard work combined with smart work could yield. She is greatly accomplished yet humble and absolutely unstoppable. No injury, no hardship could stop her from accomplishing what she has set her mind to. And that’s something worth being know

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