At the beginning of 2022, teenager Nishta Gangisetti was facing performance pressure.
Even though the 16-year-old from Hyderabad had won gold in March representing Telangana in the South Zone and qualified for the inter-zonal, defeats in several other tournaments took a toll on her.
“My performance at tournaments was down at the beginning of the year. I felt demotivated and was not even in the mood to play,” the karateka told South First.
But soon things started looking up for her. Last month, Nishta won a gold and a silver medal for India at the sixth edition of the South Asian Karate Championship in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“After participating at the All India Karate Championship and the Commonwealth Karate Championship, I was reluctant to train, but my coaches motivated me, identified my mistakes, and I started training harder,” she recollected.
These major tournaments also added to Nishta’s experience.
While the Nationals were held at Pune in June, the Commonwealth took place in September at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, India won the overall championship in the South Asian Karate Championship, jointly organised by the South Asian Karate Federation and the Sri Lanka Karate-Do Federation.
South Asian championship
Nishta secured the individual gold medal in kumite and a silver in team kata.
Participating in the under-53 weight and 16/17 junior age category, she played four matches before winning the gold and two silvers.
In the kumite finals, she defeated her Sri Lankan opponent, KVR Thathsarani.
“The tournament was good and the matches were really exciting. All my opponents were good but I felt the Sri Lankan was a bit harder than others,” she said.
About her winning mantra in the finals, she said: “I just told myself that I have to keep my brain working for two minutes. My coach’s strategy also helped me ace the match.”
“Not winning a medal can be demotivating. But she took it sportively and trusted the process. She then made it to the Indian national team and won the gold,” Indian karate team coach Keerthan Kondru told South First.
From self-defence to career
Nishta, a student of Sri Abhida school, took up karate as a sport seven years ago.
“My younger brother (aged 12) joined a karate academy. It was then that I thought of signing in to learn self-defence,” she said.
However, the Kukatpally resident took a year-long break in 2017.
“After I got my black (belt) in December 2017, my coach moved on and the training was not up to the mark. So I took a break,” Nishta, now a dan-two black belt, explained.
However, the turning point came when Kondru took over as the coach at My Dojo Karate Academy in Nizampet.
“He (Kondru) pushed me during the practice sessions and supported me throughout my bouts,” she said.
“Physically, her muscles are very tight and her ankles, too, are not good for karate. But seeing her commitment, discipline and not missing a single training session made me believe that hard work will always overcome the challenges,” Kondru explained.
The Class 11 student tries to strike a balance between her studies and sports.
“I take extra lessons when I am home. During tournaments, I take my notebooks and try to study whenever I have time, “Nishta, whose favourite subject is Chemistry, quipped.
Nishta idolises Azerbaijanian Irina Zaretska, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medalist and two times world champion.
“Her technique, attitude and down-to-earth nature inspire me,” she said.
At her first appearance in the 2022 World Cadet, Junior and Under-21 Championships in October at Konya, Turkey, the Hyderabad-born made a first-round exit.
A fan of the Korean band BTS, Nishta has now her sights set on the Karate-one Youth League in the Under-53 weight category slated for February next year in Fujairah, the UAE.
“She needs to work on her tactics, nutrition and diet. Participating in more competitions will help her,” Kondru pointed out.
Nishta, who is fond of Italian cuisine, has a long-term target of winning a gold medal in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“I am sure she has the potential to make it happen at the Olympics,” Kondru added.