My father left his job to help me focus on archery | By Ridhi Phor
Ridhi Phor turned heads by winning the gold medal for India at the recently held Archery World Cup. The 17-year-old prodigy pens her inspiring journey and delineates the sacrifices made by her father to see her shine on the global stage.
I had just turned eight-year-old when my father introduced me to archery. He had always been a sports freak and was a talented weightlifter during his heydays in college. But, he was never allowed to pursue it professionally and neither did he have any support.
I think it was his dream to see his kids excel in sports and that's how I was introduced to archery. I hail from Haryana where wrestling is a big thing. So, it should have been natural for him to ask me to either wrestle or take up the sport he was good at, but he never did that.
He always wanted to put me into a sport, where the risk of being injured was negligible. This is when he came across archery, somewhere in the city of Karnal. And since it was largely an individual sport where winning the medals entirely depended on how you perform individually, he was drawn to it and felt it could be a good sport to introduce me to.
Back then, we did not have any archery coach in Karnal. So just to teach the sport to me, he started learning it himself from Bhagwat sir in Gurgaon – some 160 kilometres from Karnal.
He started off with the wooden bow and started imbibing in me whatever he has picked up from Bhagwat sir. This continued for almost four years until 2016. In the meantime, he also had to leave his job because he was unable to guide me properly.
Those four years from 2012 to 2016, I was playing with the wooden bow. I was always itching to get into recurve – the Olympic category since there was no possibility of playing international tournaments with the wooden bow. The best you could do with the wooden bow is play national-level events.
But no matter what I said, my father was always clear that until I prove myself with the wooden bow there was no chance he was buying me recurve.
This was because of the fact that both wooden and recurve archery are vastly different. A wooden bow is made of bamboo and is light, whereas a recurve bow is made of carbon composites and is very heavy. It is very difficult just to lift it at first, let alone try to pull the string and shoot an arrow.
By 2016, I had won national medals in all the categories of wooden archery. It's only then my father was convinced, that I was good enough to shift to recurve archery.
A lot of people find the wooden to recurve archery very difficult. But, for some reason, I was always at ease. In 2016 only, I made it to all the Haryana teams for national tournaments. From mini sub-junior to senior teams, I not only featured in it all but also won medals in each age and every age division.
In the 2016-17 season, I won a total of 14 national medals – right from under-14 to the senior levels. That's how my journey in recurve archery started under the guidance of my father.
Thankfully, I did not have to wait long to break into the Indian senior team. I was first named in the Indian senior team in 2020 and have competed in three international tournaments so far, including the recently concluded World Cup Stage 1 in Antalya where I won the gold medal alongside Tarundeep Rai.
The shift from junior to senior Indian team was rather smooth, thanks to our senior archers who have always been there to help no matter with whatever problems I have approached them with. In fact, I feel more pressurised when I am playing in the junior section nowadays.
Someone like Tarun bhaiyya has been a mentor to me for quite some time now. He is like a part of our family now. My parents consider him as their own son. Even when we were playing the World Cup final last week I was just going up to him and letting him know that I am scared, I am unable to shoot. He just helped me calm down and we were able to win the gold.
Yes, I have a World Cup gold in my bag now. But, this is just a start, I believe. There is a lot I want to achieve. The immediate focus is the World Cup Stage 2 in Korea, where all the top archers from the world will be competing followed by the Asian Games in Hangzhou.
I am someone who does not like missing out on tournaments. I feel bad about missing out on the Khelo India University Games 2022 after being named in the national camp in SAI, Sonepat but the ultimate aim right now is to win a medal on my Asian Games debut and I am willing to sacrifice whatever is needed for it.
Sports is something which runs in my family. My younger brother is also an archer and has won medals at mini sub-junior and CBSE organised events. My mother, too, has taken up pistol shooting for the past three years after watching all three of us so invested in sports. This is simply where I get my competitive nature from and the urge to win.