India’s top archers to ‘find their range’ after six-month coronavirus pandemic-enforced hiatus

Since the country went under lockdown in March due to coronavirus, India’s top archers like Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das have not trained over 70 metres, the distance of the target in archery.

Amit Kamath September 14, 2020 19:10:55 IST
India’s top archers to ‘find their range’ after six-month coronavirus pandemic-enforced hiatus

File image of India's Deepika Kumari shooting during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. AFP

Six months after they last shot over the 70-metre distance, India’s top archers like Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das will finally start training at the Army Sports Institute’s archery range in Pune this week after their 14-day mandatory quarantine ends.

“Over the last six months, in fact since the day lockdown started (22 March), I’ve not shot over 70m,” Atanu told Firstpost. “So I’m very excited to shoot again.”

Earlier in August, in an interview, Atanu had told Firstpost about the rigours of a regular training day for archers like him by pointing out that they shot as many as 800 arrows daily.

This number had fallen to zero over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic-enforced lockdown had made outdoor shooting impossible, leaving archers to work indoors on things like physical fitness and yoga. Many archers also did draw exercises ― the act of getting into position with a bow and drawing on the string before releasing ― to keep their muscle memory sharp.

“I’ve been doing draw exercises (during the lockdown and the 14-day quarantine before the national camp). This is so that when I go to the ground, I don’t have any problems with my bow control, or upper body power. I’m keeping myself ready,” said Atanu.

During the quarantine period at ASI, Pune, Atanu and Deepika ― who got married in June ― are also maintaining a diary, which they say acts as a mental training tool.

“In that diary, I write down how I want to see myself shooting in competitions. I note whatever weaknesses I have. I jot down things I’m afraid of. I write so that it sticks in the mind and if a situation arises during a competition, I can use it,” said Deepika.

Atanu, who has also been spending a lot of his time in quarantine on making videos of himself training during quarantine, said the diary was something he originally started maintaining a few months before the Rio Olympics.

I ask questions of myself, like in a particular situation how I will react. I ask myself this question, and then I write down the answer. That’s a kind of special mental training I have done since just three-four months before Rio Olympics.

“When we compete, a lot of thoughts come in our head. So I try and visualise how to react if that thought pops up into the head during a competition and write down the answers,” said Atanu.

Cautious approach

There are no international competitions scheduled this year by World Archery so far, even though it has announced the event schedule for 2021. However, with the Indian men’s archery team and Deepika having qualified for the now-deferred Tokyo Olympics, it was imperative that a national training camp be announced so that archers can keep sharpening their skills.

However, when the archers do hit the ground, the instructions from the coaches have been to start training in a phased approach.

“It will take us some time to get back (into pre-lockdown shooting form). At the start we cannot push ourselves too much because it can cause an injury,” said Deepika. “Our physios, coaches and SAI have told us to control our enthusiasm and not go all out in training at the start.”

“We have to put some rope around the athletes and make them understand that they can't go really hard. They still need to make sure they need to have all those muscles activated before activity,” Arvind Yadav, a physio attached with the national camp, said. “They will need to build up and get their bodies in tune with the requirements, so it's about progression… that's something we will be emphasising on as training resumes.”

According to Yadav, archers will need at least four to six weeks to find their level of accuracy and match fitness.

But for now, Indian archers are just happy just having a target across 70m to shoot at, after a half-a-year hiatus.

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