Indian archery has never struck so rich at the continental games. The national archery compound team bagged as many as five gold medals at the just concluded 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
What was more heartening was that the Indian compound and recurve teams together sat atop the field, pushing Asian giants Korea to second spot for the first time since the introduction of the sport at the continental games four decades ago, said Sanjeeva Kumar Singh, India’s high-performance director in archery.
India’s archery team at the Asian Games won five gold, two silver and two bronze medals for a total tally of nine medals, which was better than Korea’s four gold, four silver and three bronze medals. The number of gold medals determine the position of a nation in the overall medals tally.
“The Indian archery team had clinched four medals at the 2014 edition and two at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games,” Singh told Patriot.
To give further fillip to archery in the country, Sonepat’s Sports Authority of India (SAI) Complex in Haryana, about 40 km from Delhi, is being developed as a High Performance Centre (HPC) in archery.
According to Singh, a Dronacharya Awardee in archery, the government has already sanctioned Rs 12 crore for the project.
“The archery training centre in Sonepat will be one of the best in the Asian region,” added archery’s high-performance director.
“India will be the second nation in the Asian region to have a High Performance Centre in archery after Korea.”
If the high-performance director in archery is to be believed, the centre will be fully operational by the end of this year.
“There will be all modern facilities, including for sports science, under one roof,” said Singh.
“Indoor archery range, stability platform, video analysis and equipment to check angle of the body during practice will be some of the key facilities available to the archer.”
Asian Games success
Singh said that success at 19th Asian Games didn’t happen overnight.
“The preparation for the delayed Asian Games started in 2021,” he added.
“The national team got regular international exposure and competed in all the World Cup events this year, which was a big advantage ahead of the Asian Games.”
Regular national camps and equipment support to the archers were other key features of preparation for the Asian Games.
“Selection trials were also conducted regularly to select the best for major competitions,” Singh said.
In the 2022-2023 session, the sports ministry gave financial assistance to the tune of Rs 24 crore to Archery Association of India (AAI) for international exposure-cum-training. The AAI also signed a deal with National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for Rs 115 crore for five years. The NTPC will give Rs 20 crore each year and Rs 15 crore for infrastructure.
Inclusion of foreign experts
Korea’s recurve expert Baek Woongki and Italian compound coach Sergio Pagni played a major role in polishing skills of Indian archers. The AAI also roped in psychologist and sports performance expert David McDuff of USA.
Maharashtra’s world and Asian Games champion in individual compound, Ojas Pravin Deotale, said that the Italian expert associated with the national team played a stellar role in polishing his skills.
“International exposure and support from the government made it possible to excel at the Asian Games,” the 21-year-old Maharashtra archer told Patriot.
Deotale beat Delhi boy Abhishek Verma 149-147 to win the individual compound title, while Verma settled for silver. Deotale was also a member of the gold-winning mixed and men’s compound team.
V Jyothi Surekha beat Korean So Cho 149-145 to win individual compound gold.
India’s world champion Aditi Gopichand Swami beat Indonesian 146-140 to win bronze in the women’s compound event.
Indian recurve team of Atanu Das, Dheeraj Bommadevara and Tushar Shelke lost 1-5 to Korea to settle for silver in the team event.
The women’s recurve team of Ankita Bhagat, Simranjeet Kaur and Bhajan Kaur beat Bangladesh 6-2 to win bronze.
The Indian recurve team’s next target is to earn Paris Olympic Games quota place at the Asian Archery Championships scheduled to be held in Bangkok in the first week of November. The Asian meet in Thailand will be the second Olympic qualifiers this season. The first was the Berlin World Championships in Germany in September where India’s top recurve archers missed the target to qualify for the Olympics.
“We are hopeful the national recurve team will peak at the right time next year to achieve good results at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games,” Singh concluded.