Bhopal's Latika Bhandari has bagged the 60th place in the latest World Taekwondo rankings by winning a SAF gold. She competes in the below-53 kg category. No other male or female from India has accomplished this feat before.
She will now be heading for the European Taekwondo Union President Cup which is scheduled next week. Latika, who practises with boys, tells TOI, "I think practising with the boys is a blessing in disguise for me. It helps me improve my game as they have a faster technique. I have to keep improving my game, so I never compromise with my training schedule."
"My father inspired me to prove my mettle in this very demanding sport. He taught me how to keep moving in life and face bad situations. He always motivated me to keep putting my best foot forward" - Latika
She has been training at State Martial Arts Academy at Tatya Tope stadium since 2008.
Recalling her favourite fight, she says,"It was the quarter-finals at the Korea Open quarter finals in July. I was competing with a Chinese athlete and thought I was winning, but lost 12-15. It was a close one, a very gruelling fight. But it taught me a lot."
Latika is a five-time senior national champion. She also bagged a gold in the 34th National Games in 2011.
"Taekwondo is a very fast-paced sport, which needs regular, intense training. I am aiming at a medal in the next Asian Games. The sports department has provided everything I need to fulfil my dreams," she added.
Latika is also pursuing an MA in physical education from Barkatullah University.
She admits that her father Mahendra Bhandari has been a huge support for her. "My father inspired me to prove my mettle in this very demanding sport. He taught me how to keep moving in life and face bad situations. He always motivated me to keep putting my best foot forward," says the athlete.
"She has been a consistent performer for several years and proved her mettle by winning gold in the SAF Games. We have high hopes of her," said senior coach of Martial Arts Academy BLN Murthy. He aspires to see her perform in the Olympics.