After the commendable performance in Tokyo 2020 Olympics where she finished fourth, Aditi Ashok is now world No. 154 – a jump of 46 places.
As of now, she is on her way to the next assignment in the Women’s Scottish Open field hosted at Dumbarnie Links, Scotland. But looking back at the quadrennial event, the 23-year-old has mixed emotions and struggled to describe her feelings in words.
However, what gave her immense joy was the unwavering love showered upon her by the country.
For Aditi, whose maiden Olympic appearance was in Rio 2016 as an 18-year-old, her second outing was outstanding because she was mentally prepared and admittedly unperturbed by the hype around the Games. “It was a much better trip than Rio. What made the difference was that I was better prepared and had the experience. So I was also able to soak in the pressure and remained unfazed by the whole atmosphere,” she told indianexpress.com in an exclusive interaction.
But what took her by surprise was India’s support in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Remember #AditiAshok was the top trend from 2 am on Twitter that day.
“I didn’t expect so many people would wake up early and tune into golf, that’s a gratifying feeling,” said Aditi, the youngest Indian golfer (male or female) at 19 years to have played all majors.
“I have no words to express how thankful I am that people got up at around 4 am and watched a sport they did not know much about and tried to learn about it. I think that’s the great part about golf being in the Olympics. The Olympics has the power to bring so many new fans to the sport,” she added.
Getting support from fellow athletes like Abhinav Bindra and Prime Minister Modi tweeting his support was a massive moment for Aditi, who took up the sport at six and turned professional in January 2016. And now she hopes a lot more people will pick up the game and India will have a stronger golf team in the 2024 Paris Games.
Aditi finished creditable fourth-place, ranking among the rare few to achieve that position in India’s Olympic history.
She entered the event as an underdog placed at world No. 200 and finished the tournament with flying colours. For three rounds she was placed second with eventual winner Nelly Korda of the United States and current world No.1 and the 2016 Rio Games medallist Lydia Ko of New Zealand. There was a lot of excitement around the country when a scenario emerged where she might return with a silver medal as she shot five birdies and moved to 12-under to take the sole second spot with her mother, Maheshwari doubling up as her caddie.
On Saturday, the event was briefly interrupted when a storm alert was sounded. So did the weather-hit final round affect her performance in any way? “Not really. I think we were lucky that we got to play the fourth round. It doesn’t matter I was second after how many ever rounds because usually, golf is four rounds, and what happens after that is what is more important,” she said.
“I think the only thing that was a bit hard to deal with is because it was going to rain. The organisers adjusted our time so that we could play in better weather. So we had to start very early on the final day. That wasn’t an issue. I was staying in the Olympic village which is almost an hour and a half away from the venue. So during the week, I had to wake up as early as 3.30 – 4 every morning which was a little bit tiring and a bit of struggle but I gave my best,” said Aditi.
However, at the end when it dawned that Aditi would miss the podium finish by a whisker it did leave the youngster in tears.
“While I was playing I was calm and didn’t feel any pressure at all. But when I finished the event and realised that I didn’t win any medal, it made me emotional. I gave my best but that wasn’t enough. Golf is a game of small margins.
I’m happy that I played well and everybody watched but was sad that I could not finish on the podium. Finishing fourth was not the best finish but the positives I am taking is what happened back home,” said Aditi.
“I still can’t believe that I single-handedly managed to grab eyeballs into golf but that was great,” she signed off.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines