From a humble background to spotlight, the inspiring journey of Treesa Jolly

India's Gayatri Gopichand Pullela (left) and Treesa Jolly (right) in action during their match against Korea's Lee Sohee and Shin Seungchan in the All England Open Badminton Championships 2022 at the Utilita Arena, in Birmingham, Friday, March 18, 2022. PTI

Kannur: When physical education teacher Jolly Mathew initiated his children into the world of badminton, he only thought the sport would keep them physically active. One of his children, who picked up a badminton racquet at the age of five, instantly fell in love with the sport. She went on to become one of the brightest prospects for the country in the doubles arena by putting up impressive performances at different levels. The story of Treesa Jolly, who made history in the company of Gayatri Gopichand by entering the All England semifinals on Friday, is one of grit, determination, and hard work.

Hailing from Cherupuzha in Kannur district, Treesa's rise to the top has been steady. She attended her first major competition at the age of 7; the U-10 state championship representing Kannur. Later, she turned up for Kerala at the U-13 national championship. Now, she and Gayathri find themselves in the All England semifinals, becoming the first Indian pair to do so.

"Treesa had phoned us before the match. She was very confident. We all watched the match on TV. Both of them played really well. After losing the first game, they came back strongly. I believe they will do well in the semifinals," Jolly Mathew said.

Gayathri has been Treesa's doubles partner ever since she started training at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad a year ago.

Recalling Treesa's formative years, he said: "Though we had a volleyball court in front of our house, I taught Treesa and her elder sister Maria the basics of badminton and started training them. I just wanted to help them stay active outside of school hours. However, as both of them started showing glimpses of their innate talent right from the beginning, I realised that they had found their path in life. Maria was a sub-junior champion at the state level."

Anil Ramachandran, head of the Physical Education Department at Kannur University, was Treesa's trainer in the high school. Her mother Daisy Joseph teaches at the St Joseph's Higher Secondary school, Cherupuzha.

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