Of talent on the tatami 

Nivedha Sreenivasan has just scripted the early history of her kickboxing career and in doing so, contributed to the country’s efforts in women’s kickboxing as well.

Published: 17th May 2022 05:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th May 2022 05:14 AM   |  A+A-

Nivedha Sreenivasan is training for the World Championship in September. She aims to play for India in the 2028 Olympics.

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Nivedha Sreenivasan has just scripted the early history of her kickboxing career and in doing so, contributed to the country’s efforts in women’s kickboxing as well. Days ago, the young contender clinched a silver and bronze at the WAKO 7th International Turkish Open Kickboxing World Cup - 2022. It was the Light Contact and Kick Light Event that fetched the victories. All at the age of 14 years. While her family, and coach Suresh are ecstatic, Nivedha’s celebration has been quite self-moderated. Ask her how she feels and she goes, “It feels good. But I was aiming for the gold.”

Start to finish
It is this thirst for excellence that had Nivedha giving her all to the sport and picking up such wins with barely two years of training under the belt. Though she set off on this course at the start of 2020, a pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had her training on hold. But when training kicked off in earnest after June, there was no stopping her. “Usually, people learn martial arts for fitness and not as a sport. But Nivedha had that interest from the very beginning. Even through everyday practice, she didn’t allow room for any tiredness or soreness. It was this spirit that has seen her through — step by step — to this level,” notes Suresh, founder of Spitfire Kickboxing Academy. 

What stood out about Nivedha’s ability or performance for Suresh? It’s the innate confidence that she brought to the game, he says. “Performers tend to have anxiety at their first championship. Especially here, where it’s mostly foreign players among the 3,200 competitors. But Nivedha went in with  confidence. It doesn’t matter if she wins or loses, she will confidently go into the next game as well. She was a little upset when she lost the semi-finals but she took it as a learning experience and put all her effort into the next day’s event,” he narrates. This confidence is something she draws from her mother, and her coach, says Nivedha. “I’m scared before entering the tatami. But, when the referee says ‘start’, I go into fight mode. The fear doesn’t matter in those two minutes,” she admits. 

Of trials and triumph
Despite the disappointment of not bagging a gold at the Turkish Open, Nivedha considers the event a valuable exercise in exposure and experience. “There was so much that I learnt that I can use in my next match. International fights are a completely new experience, it wasn’t what I expected. In the Light Contact match, my opponent was really good. She fought with one leg; she scored three points without putting that leg down. It was awesome! I am happy I could fight with a person like that. I learnt so much from it,” she says. 

Nivedha arrived at the Turkish Open after registering wins at several tournaments. “Her first big event was the December 2020 state championship, where she bagged the silver medal. This was followed by a district championship, another state event and a nationals in 2021. It was through such events and the silver and gold medals that she got there that her focus developed and brought her here,” explains Suresh. 

On her road to the coveted gold, there are quite a few events to come before the World Championship in September. “My goal is to take two golds in that competition. In the long term, I want to play for India in the 2028 Olympics. Kickboxing has (recently) gained recognition in India and I’m happy to be contributing to the same. I’m pretty sure more girls will join the sport after seeing the news of my victory,” she suggests. Here’s to that!

Nivedha Sreenivasan clinched a silver and bronze at the WAKO 7th International Turkish Open Kickboxing World Cup - 2022

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