Sushila Devi Likmabam qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics by virtue of the continental quota, with her ranked seventh in Asia as per the OGC (Olympic Games Quota). The Manipuri would be the first female judoka from India to feature at the Olympics since Garima Chaudhury's appearance in 2012.
The second sibling among four children, Sushila Devi Likhmabam hails from a humble background in Manipur. However, having an international Judoka beside her from a young age in the form of his uncle Likmabam Dinit Singh, was of immense help. Even though Sushila already had an inclination towards judo, his uncle was responsible for igniting the fire in the belly which was required to channelize her in the right path. Initially, Sushila was trained by her uncle, who made her competition ready.
It was only in 2004-05 that she moved into the SAI (Sports Authority of India) centre at Khuman Lampak for advanced training. Incidentally, it was the same place where Sushila was accompanied by his uncle in 2002 to kick-start her judo career. The immense support and faith showed by her family members all summed up to shape Sushila's career, which would pay back dividends later on. However, it was in 2010, when she shifted her training base to NIS, Patiala that really did the trick. Under the strict guidance of coaches Jeevan Sharma, Deben Singh, and Sabitri Devi, the judoka was becoming a force to reckon with.
Sushil’s first major national title was the gold medal win at the Junior Nationals, in 2008, following it up with an Asian Youth bronze medal, later that year. A couple of years down the line, she bagged top honours at the Commonwealth Judo Championships. At the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, when she was just 19, Sushila Devi pulled off her biggest achievement so far, by claiming a bronze medal in the women’s 48kg category.
Sushila’s next target was the Olympics, but she failed to make the cut for the Rio edition. Another four years of wait only made her strong, physically and mentally.
At the 2021 Judo World Championships, she made an early exit, but her impressive performance with a score of 989 points put her on the seventh spot in the Asian rankings. According to the Olympics qualification guidelines, the top 18 ranked judokas (with a maximum of one per country) would be awarded a direct spot at the main event, while two judokas from each continent out of the top-18 would also be selected.
Fortunately, she was the highest-ranked Asian judoka outside the top-18 as per the OGQ (Olympic Games Quota) rankings, which are based on the last two years’ performance. Even though the qualification was pretty much guaranteed, the Indian received a formal confirmation when the final list was announced on June 28th. She is the lone judoka from India to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and also the first female entrant from India since Garima Chaudhary’s appearance at the 2012 London Games.