In a big boost to Indian archery ahead of the 2024 Paris Games, the national federation has hired Olympic gold medal-winning coach Baek Woong Ki to work with the recurve team.
The South Korean, who oversaw his country’s double gold medal-winning show in women’s individual and team sections at London Olympics, will begin his India stint with the season-opening World Cup Stage 1, slated in Antalya, Turkey from Tuesday.
This is the first time after the 2014 Asian Games that India have hired a foreign coach.
In fact, the Archery Association of India (AAI) also has roped in two-time Italian World Cup winner Sergio Pagni, who is accompanying the compound team to the Turkey World Cup.
Woong Ki was initially part of the Centre of Excellence in SAI, Sonipat and now he has been given a contract till the Olympics.
“He has been made India recurve coach and will be till Asian Games and then the Olympics,” Indian archery high performance director and Dronacharya Awardee Sanjeeva Singh told PTI.
The 44-year-old former world champion, Pagni, on the other had been associated with the compound team since 2018, when he had conducted a training programme ahead of the Asian Games.
“His familiarity and experience with Indian archers made him an automatic choice,” he added.
The upcoming World Cup will be the first big test for the duo as India are fielding a new-look squad comprising mostly juniors.
Barring the trio of 2010 Asian Games silver medallist Tarundeep Rai, two-time Olympian Atanu Das, and World Championships silver medallist compound archer Jyothi Surekha Vennam, the Indian squad have quite a few new names.
The biggest name to miss out in the compound section is top-ranked Indian Abhishek Verma (world No. 13), a five-time World Cup gold medal winner and a former World Championship silver medallist. | Photo Credit: World Archery Federation via Getty Images
All eyes would be on the high-profile Korean to bring out the best from the Indian team which will miss big names such as Deepika Kumari, Riddhi Phor and Komalika Bari, who have failed to make the cut.
“I’ve met Woong Ki during the trials in Kolkata, he was part of the CoE and looked full of energy and positive vibes. I’m looking forward to a good show,” Deepika said.
While the recurve men team will be the most fancied banking on the experience of Rai and Das, all eyes would be on the women’s side where Aditi Jaiswal will play her second World Cup.
The biggest name to miss out in the compound section is top-ranked Indian Abhishek Verma (world No. 13), a five-time World Cup gold medal winner and a former World Championship silver medallist.
The compound section will have two debutants each in the men’s and women’s sections -- Rishabh Yadav, Ojas Deotale, Aditi Swamy and Sakshi Choudhary.
“The juniors are upcoming and doing well. They have come through a rigorous two-phase trial in Kolkata and Sonipat. We expect them to come out strongly,” Singh said.
“We want to see how they overcome anxiety pangs. A good start (in the qualification) will set them up,” Singh added.
Teams: Recurve Men: B Dhiraj, Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai, Neeraj Chauhan; Recurve Women: Bhajan Kaur, Aditi Jaiswal, Ankita Bhakat, Simranjit Kaur; Compound Men: Prathmesh Jawhar, Rajat Chauhan, Ojas Deotale, Rishab Yadav; Compound Women: Avneet Kaur, V Jyothi Surekha, Aditi Swamy, Sakshi Choudhary.