Indian archers were bang on target in the recently concluded Archery World Cup Stage-3 in Paris. Whether it was recurve or compound, Indians bagged gold in all the competitions. The superlative performances of Indian archers have raised the expectations of a rich medal haul in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Among all the gold medallists the most standout performer was Ranchi's Deepika Kumari, bagging a hat-trick of gold medals one each in Individual Women's Recurve, Team recurve with Komolika Bari and Ankita Bhagat and Mixed team with Atanu Das. This top-notch performance from Deepika has taken her back to the number one spot in ranking, leapfrogging France's Lisa Barbelin and Korea's Kang Chae Young, just ahead of the prestigious quadrennial event and now all eyes are on her to help India bag their first archery medal in Olympics.
"Everyone is expecting a good performance from the entire team. Deepika Kumari has come up with some extraordinary performances in World Cup stage-1 and World Cup stage-3. If you come up with extraordinary performances like these before the Olympics then a medal looks quite a certainty. What the colour of the medal will be depends on the day and also on luck but yes it is a big boost and we are moving forward towards clinching the medal. We are expecting India to win at least two medals. We are hoping for gold and we believe that winning medals in archery is quite a possibility." said India's ace compound archer Abhishek Verma in a chat with The Bridge.
According to Abhishek Verma the Indian Recurve team has a great blend of youth and experience with seasoned archers like Tarundeep Rai and Atanu Das, participating in their third and second Olympics respectively as well as, 24-year old Pravin Jadhav playing his first Olympics.
"Indian team has Pravin Jadhav who is a highly talented youngster and is currently performing brilliantly. Tarundeep Rai is a three time Olympian. Atanu Das is in great form. Deepika will compete in Women singles as well as mixed where any of these three who are in great form will partner her. So, we have a good chance for every position. Therefore, I am expecting at least two medals from them." said the compound archer Abhishek Verma.
The Indian archers never lost focus despite problems in the Archery associations as they realized that, there are problems everywhere so it is best to not lose hope and focus while training and competing.
"Problems are everywhere, be it home or federation. Ups and downs are part of life; you have to beat them and move forward. There are no families where there are no problems today medals are coming because of support only." as per Abhishek Verma.
India's compound archer Abhishek Verma has not participated in Olympics yet as compound archery is not a part of the four year event but, he does realize the pressure archers go through when they compete in Olympics as the level of expectation is more than competing in any world cups.
"Pressure is there for major tournaments like the Olympics because these tournaments have a different limelight and we are motivated and pumped up right from the beginning. But be it World Cups, Asian Championships or Olympics the archers are mostly the same but the pressure is built so much mentally and archery is a game where mental aspect plays a major part. Therefore, the one who controls better performs better." said Abhishek Verma.
In World Cup Stage-3 in Paris Deepika Kumari, Komolika Bari, Ankita Bhagat and Atanu Das starred in the recurve discipline and in the compound discipline it was Abhishek Verma who was the stand out performer, bagging a gold medal in the men's individual compound event. The Asian Games gold medallist created history by becoming the first man to win two World Cup gold medals in individual compound archery.
"I am personally very happy with my performance. We got an opportunity to play in a tournament after two years and due to the pandemic everything was disturbed. So, our main focus was whenever you participate, you prepare well and perform and this time the performance was also very good. It is a big boost for us for future tournaments that you are in good form and you can perform well." said star compound archer Abhishek Verma after winning the individual gold medal.
Despite facing lockdown issues the Delhi lad found his own way out to practice as he knew that, the only way to excel is by staying in constant rhythm which comes with regular practice and training.
"It was very difficult for us because during this pandemic most of the institutes were closed, be it Yamuna Sports Complex in Delhi or Sonepat, our India camps were also stopped. So, there were problems but meanwhile wherever we got the space we practiced over there outdoor. I used the farm of a known relative by shifting my target over there to prepare. So, there were hurdles but you have to overcome them." said Abhishek Verma.
Abhishek Verma looked confident right from the start and had very little problem in adjusting in completely different weather and environment which is always the most challenging thing an archer faces. His experience came in handy in these trying conditions.
"Archery is an outdoor event but you have to counter every kind of situation and challenges be it wind or rain. So, when my match was going on the temperature was 12 degrees and it was drizzling but you have to handle such situations because you face a lot of difficulties when you are going from India where the temperature was 40 degrees. Your body becomes stiff but when you have the experience then you know how to protect your body and how to warm-up. Therefore, my experience came in very handy." explained Abhishek Verma.
Archer Abhishek Verma was spot on right from the start and held his nerve in a shoot-off against American heavyweight Kris Schaff in the gold medal match too. The 2014 Asian Games gold medallist Abhishek Verma finished off in style with three 10-pointer shots showing nerves of steel in the toughest of the situations.
"I can't mention one particular match because if you lose one match then you are out of the competition. So, every match is important. But when you are playing a podium match then your heart starts beating fast but having said that if you perform then you can win medals too. Before that I had played 5 matches. So, six matches back-to-back are tough and challenging. You have to perform in every match and every match is tough because if you lose one point or match then you are out." expressed Abhishek Verma.
The performance of Indian archers in Archery World Cup Stage-3 shows that they have peaked at the right time ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and now it is time for them carry their form from Paris to Tokyo.