ESPN India’s Female Athlete of the Year – Jyothi Surekha Vennam

Even before her spectacular performances in 2023, Jyothi Surekha Vennam had established herself as one of India’s premier compound archers, adorned with numerous medals from World Championships, World Cups, and the Asian Games. However, it was the year 2023 that witnessed her ascend to new heights, solidifying her status as India’s most consistent and outstanding athlete in a discipline often overshadowed by the Olympic fervor surrounding recurve archery.

While many were familiar with Vennam’s name due to her regular podium finishes in international events, the absence of a gold medal was a narrative that changed dramatically in 2023. The breakthrough came in April at the first World Cup in Antalya, where Vennam secured her first individual gold after 20 attempts. This pivotal victory, defeating world number one Ella Gibson and the legendary Sara Lopez, marked a significant moment in her career, fulfilling a long-held dream and underscoring her promise.

The World Archery Championships in Berlin brought both triumph and a twist. Despite a stunning performance, Vennam fell short of the solo world champion title, losing to 17-year-old Indian debutant Aditi Swami. Undeterred, Vennam rebounded to claim another Worlds bronze and a team gold, showcasing resilience and determination.

The Asian Games in Hangzhou presented another opportunity for redemption against Aditi Swami. Faced with immense pressure and a larger live audience, Vennam displayed exceptional skill, securing a near-perfect score and overcoming a dramatic match to move into the final, eventually winning the gold. Her victory echoed the universal sports narrative—persevere, overcome challenges, and strive for gold.

Beyond her on-field success, Vennam’s off-court advocacy for compound archery deserves recognition. Compound archery, not an Olympic discipline, often lacks the support and recognition granted to Olympic sports. Vennam, in a heartfelt appeal, urged for acknowledgment and support for non-Olympic athletes, emphasizing their achievements in events like the World Championships and Asian Games.

In a fitting conclusion to her exceptional year, Vennam received the title of ESPN India’s Female Athlete of the Year. Her consistent dedication, unwavering pursuit of excellence, and advocacy for her sport highlight Jyothi Surekha Vennam as not just an archery champion but also a voice for change in the sporting landscape.