Friday, September 29, 2023

Aditi Ashok becomes first female Indian golfer to qualify for Tokyo Olympics

Aditi Ashok

BENGALURU, June 29: It’s official, Aditi Ashok, India’s lone golfer on the LPGA Tour, will represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics, beginning in less than a month.

The 23-year-old Bengalurean was one of the few Indian athletes who was always within the Tokyo cut since the qualification process began in July 2018. She was 28th in the Olympic rankings three years ago and No. 45 in the 60-player field when the list was announced by the International Golf Federation on Tuesday.
“Two-time Olympian always sounds better than just one time,” an elated Aditi told TOI on Tuesday. “It’s an honour to be representing India at the world’s biggest stage. Very few athletes get to do this in their career. I am looking forward to this opportunity, and I’m excited to go to Tokyo.”
Unlike the Rio Games in 2016, the Tokyo berth was never in doubt for the Arjuna awardee. Having turned pro in 2016 and plying her trade in two of the biggest Tours – LPGA and the Ladies European Tour (LET) – ever since, her qualification for the quadrennial Games was a given.
“I knew I would make it to Tokyo. Unlike Rio, where I had to make an effort to qualify as I was an amateur till 2015, I did not get to play many world-ranking pro events. But I am proud of the journey I have had so far,” pointed out Aditi, who will be playing the Volunteers of America Classic tournament in Texas this week.
Tokyo will give the three-time winner on the LET another chance to make up for the Rio performance. “Surely it’s a great opportunity to play well and better my performance this time. I will definitely use my Rio experience and give my 100% this time too,” said Aditi, who finished 41st after briefly sharing the lead in the second round.
The Indian pro is leaving no stone unturned in her quest for glory in Japan. Her primary goal is to do well on the biggest stage and then think about retaining her card on the LPGA and LET.
“It’s tough travelling currently, especially for Indians because of the rapidly spreading Covid variants in the last few months. But I’ve realised I can’t do anything about the future, so there is no point in worrying about how many events I get to play on either Tour. I can only focus on one week at a time, which is what I plan to do. I decided I wanted to play the Olympics no matter what comes in the way. So, I will do that and see what happens about my status later,” Aditi said matter-of-factly.
Stuck at home during the raging second wave, the world No. 178 missed close to eight weeks of golf. The rustiness showed when she rejoined the LPGA early this month, missing two cuts. However, Aditi will get to play at least three tournaments or four to sharpen her game before heading to Tokyo.

In the men’s section, Anirban Lahiri had booked the 60th and final spot last Tuesday. Udayan Mane, the first reserve, too could make it when the IGF publishes the final list after withdrawals on July 6. (TNN)