Asian Games 2018: In-form compound archers tipped for glory, steal limelight from recurve team ahead of Indonesia event

A good performance at the Asian Games 2018 from the compound archers might well be the boost the sport needs to gain much-needed recognition and popularity.

Turja Sen August 09, 2018 15:16:24 IST
Asian Games 2018: In-form compound archers tipped for glory, steal limelight from recurve team ahead of Indonesia event

Recurve archery being an Olympic event has always enjoyed a bigger following than compound archery in India. But when this year's Asian Games archery action begins at the GB sports Complex in Jakarta, it will be the compound archers who are tipped to bring more glory than their recurve counterparts.

Abhishek Verma will lead the Indian challenge in compound archery. The ever-dependable Verma guided the country to a gold medal in the Asian Games in 2014 in the team event and will look to repeat the feat. During the agonisingly long barren patch for the recurve archers, Verma has repeatedly helped the country secure a place in the medals tally in various global tournaments, be it in the individual, team or mixed team events.

Yet, recognition eludes him and financial support has been hard to come by since compound archery is not an Olympic event. "Despite the achievements, no one takes notice of us and somehow we are yet to grab the headlines. Medals are the only ways to get attention and attract some eyeballs. This fuels my hunger to strive harder and go for medals,’’ said Verma, in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.

Asian Games 2018 Inform compound archers tipped for glory steal limelight from recurve team ahead of Indonesia event

India won silver in compound team archery section at the World Championships. Image courtesy: World Archery official website

The compound archery events in this year’s Asian Games feature the team events in men’s, women’s and mixed team categories, with the individual event being scrapped.

Verma was the senior most member of the triumphant trio that won the team event in the last edition of the Asian Games in Incheon. The Indian men’s team for Jakarta includes Rajat Chauhan, another member of the gold medal-winning squad of 2014, along with two young guns – Aman Saini and Sangampreet Singh Bisla.

"Asian Games is a big event for us because a good performance here will help us get noticed and raise the profile of the sport in India," adds Verma.

A couple of years ago, Rajat had given up on compound archery, moving to recurve with the ultimate aim of taking part in the Olympics. But the transition was not smooth and he switched back to the compound variety and made a comeback in the Indian team. "It is good to have Rajat back because he is an experienced campaigner."

Things are looking bright in the mixed event, where each team consists of a male and a female archer. In the run-up to this year's Asian Games, Verma and his partner Jyothi Surekha have been in red-hot form. The duo bagged bronze medals in all the four World Cups this year, making them a strong contender for a podium finish in Jakarta. The mixed team event is making its debut in this year's edition of the Asian Games.

The women's compound team consists of Jyoti, Trisha Deb, Muskan Kirar and Madhumita Kumari. Thanks to their runners-up finish in the last World Cup in Berlin, the Indian women's team is currently ranked number one in the world. The women had won the bronze in the Incheon Asian Games and will once again face tough opposition from South Korea and Chinese Taipei.

"The success of compound archery in recent times is due to the establishment of the Sports Authority of India's Centre of Excellence in Sonepat. The centre, with its special focus on compound archery, has truly altered the landscape of the sport in the country," Verma said.

But he regrets that despite the steady flow of medals in international tournaments, there is a lack of funding for compound archers. "We receive funding from Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) only for the Asian Games, which means there is very little financial help available for the other events, including the World Cup and the World Championship," Verma rued. The compound team had a ten-day camp with Sergio Pagni, a well-known compound archer from Italy.

While the compound archers have been among the medals, the Indian recurve team has suffered a free fall. After a string of poor performances in the World Cups, Deepika Kumari finally regained her Midas touch in Salt Lake City, winning the World Cup gold in the individual event.

"I have been focussing on my mental training and this has helped me to bounce back. I had some poor scores this year but my mental conditioning coach, Mugdha Bavare, has been helping me to regain my form," she said. The world number five will lead the Indian challenge in the Asian Games along with Laxmirani Majhi, Pramila Daimary, and Ankita Bhakat. "We do not have a very experienced side but hopefully we can spring a surprise," said Deepika.

The Indian men’s team consists of Atanu Das, Sukhchain Singh, Vishwas Kumar and Jagdish Chaudhary. The experienced Jayanta Talukdar and Mangal Singh Champia lost in the selection trials and failed to book their berths at the Asian Games. "The situation is indeed grim for the recurve archery in the country and it is time for some drastic measures to shore up their performances," Dola Banerjee, India’s first archer to win the World Cup final, said. "I feel one of the major reason for the downturn is our recurve archers have not adjusted to the new scoring pattern."

The earlier scoring system had 12 arrows being shot by each of the two contestants. The new format consists of matches featuring five sets. Each set consists of three arrows and the winner of the set gets two points. "Once a set is finished, you are starting afresh and the Indian archers tend to lose the momentum once a new set starts. Many times, they have squandered their lead after a good start, allowing their rivals to make a comeback," Dola explained.

It has not helped that the Archery Association of India has been derecognised by the Indian government since 2012. The recurve team has not had a foreign coach for the last couple of years and even the format of the selection trials for the national team has raised eyebrows.

Earlier, the selection trials were spread over four days where weightage was also given to the ranking rounds in the final selection. The trials for the Asian Games this year were held in just two days and many of the experts feel that this does not reward consistent performers.

Once a strong force at the continental level challenging the might of South Korea and Chinese Taipei, Indian recurve archers drew a blank in the last edition of the Asian Games while their compatriots from the compound team returned with four medals, including a gold.

A good performance in Jakarta from the compound archers might well be the boost the sport needs to gain much-needed recognition and popularity.

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