Eyes on Tokyo Olympics, Atanu Das leads revival of India's recurve archery
At Rio Olympics, Das was the lone male archer from India and had reached the pre-quarters. For Tokyo, the archer from Kolkata is working on his skills as well as mental toughness.
At Rio Olympics, Das was the lone male archer from India and had performed creditably reaching the pre-quarters.
Das, along with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav, finished second at the World Championships to earn quota places for the Olympics.
Das also credits his fiancee and well-known female archer Deepika Kumari in having a positive influence on him.
His Facebook account has no post since 2018 and there is no celebratory tweet either on making the cut for the Tokyo Olympics. But it essentially sums up the personality of Atanu Das — one of India’s most successful male archer. Despite his achievements, he remains understated and uncomfortable in facing up to public adulation or media glare.
"The success at the World Championship proves that we are back on track but the biggest challenge now is to ensure that our preparations are meticulously planned till the Olympics," says the 27-year-old recurve archer. Das, along with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav, finished second behind China at the World Championships in the Netherlands last month to earn quota places for the Olympics.
At Rio Olympics, Das was the lone male archer from India and had performed creditably reaching the pre-quarters before losing a very tight contest against South Korea’s Seungyun Lee. The score sheet 28-30, 30-28, 27-27, 27-28, 28-28 reflected how agonisingly close Das was to make it to the last eight.
“It had convinced me that more than the skills, it was important for me to learn how to hold on to your nerves in crunch situations. So in the last couple of years, I have been more focussed about mental conditioning. Before practice sessions, I make it a point to visualise tense match situations so that I am more prepared when I am actually facing an opponent in close battles.’’
This came in handy during the match against Canada at the World Championship for a place in the Olympics. India held an advantage of 4-2 going into the last set (2 points are awarded for winning a set, 1 point if the set is tied). In a tense finish, Atanu had to hit a perfect 10 with his last arrow to level the set and win the contest. He did not lose his composure and signed off with a 10 to book a berth for Tokyo.
“Atanu has always been very talented but I think there has been a remarkable transformation since 2015 when he realised that he could become one of the very best in the world. He became more focussed and more serious about archery,’’ recounts Rahul Banerjee, who represented India in the 2012 London Olympics and a former teammate of Das. “The first time everyone started taking notice about this precocious talent was when he was selected for the Youth Olympics in 2010,’’ says Banerjee.
“I had first noticed Atanu when he was just 15 at the sub-junior nationals in Chattisgarh. I had offered him to join the Army Sports Institute in Pune but he had already joined the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur,’’ says Mim Singh Gurung, one of the coaches with the current Indian archery team. Ironically, Gurung is now busy drawing the roadmap ahead for Das and other Indian archers in lead up to the Olympics.
The archers will have a training stint at the Army Institute of Sports in Pune which will be followed by Asian Championships in November. An Indian team is also likely to be fielded at the Macau Indoor Archery Open. With Mission Olympics in mind, Gurung is also keen on Das undergoing a training stint at Kim Hyung Tak Archery School in South Korea. Kim is one of the most renowned recurve archery coaches and Das has been visiting his training centre in the last few years. The planning for tournaments and training stints abroad is not easy with the de-recognition of the Archery Federation of India. Luckily, Das along with Tarundeep and Jadhav, has already been selected by the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) which means they are unlikely to face much stumbling blocks in financing their training programs.
Indian recurve archers had returned empty-handed in the last two Asian Games and their dwindling fortunes had raised an alarm. “We just fared poorly and there were no excuses. It was important for us not to spend too much time in mourning over it. We were not completely off-target. It was just that we were found wanting in crucial moments of the matches,’’ explains Das.
Gurung, tasked with preparing the men’s recurve team for the Worlds, implemented a strict regimen which banned the use of mobile phones during training. “My observation was that the archers were not taking pre-tournament training very seriously and there was a need to enforce a bit of discipline. We made it mandatory for the archers to attend all the practice sessions,’’ asserts Gurung.
While a more stringent training schedule may have helped the archers, Das also credits his fiancee and India’s most well-known female archer Deepika Kumari in having a positive influence in helping him bounce back when the chips were down.
“We keep a very close eye on each other’s performance – be it during matches or even during practice sessions. It always helps when you can discuss what has gone right or wrong with someone you are close to. But I always get very tensed when Deepika is shooting in competitions. At times, it is too difficult to watch, ’’ reveals Das.
The two have featured in mixed events in the past and are likely to get married later this year. India’s women team failed to qualify for the Olympics but women archers will get an opportunity to make it to the Olympics in the individual events through the Asian Championships this year and the Stage 3 and the final Olympic qualifying tournament in Berlin next year. This could mean Das and Deepika could become the first husband-wife pair from India to take part in the Olympics archery event.
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