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Compound Archery Stealing the Spotlight as Recurve Team Fail to Get Their Act Together

Unlike the routine where recurve archery, an Olympic event, hogged more of the spotlight in India, this year it will be the compound archers who will look to make hay while the sun shines thanks to the Asian Games in Jakarta.

News18 Sports

Updated:August 17, 2018, 8:08 PM IST

Unlike always where recurve archery, an Olympic event, hogged more of the spotlight in India, this year it will be the compound archers who will look to make hay while the sun shines thanks to the Asian Games in Jakarta. The compound team has been tipped for more glory than their recurve counterparts.

The dependable Abhishek Verma, who guided India to a Gold medal in 2014 in Incheon, will spearhead the Indian challenge in compound archery as they look to retain their title.

For the veteran Verma though, recognition has eluded him and so has financial support as compound archery is not among the Olympic events. "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," Verma told Firstpost.

In Jakarta, the compound archery events this year feature the team events in men’s, women’s and mixed team categories only

Verma was the senior most in the team that that won the event in Incheon. This time around, the team includes Rajat Chauhan, another member of the gold medal-winning squad of 2014, along with two new faces in 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.

Two years ago in Rio at the Olympics, Rajat had jumped ship from compound to recurve as it allowed him to compete at the highest level. The move though did not pay rich dividends, and the experienced campaigner switched back.

Ahead of the upcoming Asian Games, things are looking good for the mixed event where Verma and partner Jyothi Surekha have been in red-hot form. The team returned with Bronze medals at all four World Cups this year. The duo are strong contenders for a podium finish in Jakarta, where it is a debut for the mixed team event at the Asian Games.

The women’s compound team with the likes Jyoti, Trisha Deb, Muskan Kirar and Madhumita Kumari finished runners-up at the last World Cup and are currently the top ranked team in the World. At Incheon they won a Bronze and can once again expect to 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.

Verma though is rueful of the fact that there is a lack of support and 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.

"I'm really proud of this group, they are all world class. I am sure that they will come out with flying colours from the Games," Pagni, a two-time World Championship gold medallist had told PTI in Sonepat. "They have some experienced archers like Abhishek Verma and Rajat Chauhan but at the same time the youngsters also shot consistently. The level we reached was very high."

"Every team will fight for the gold and will give their best. It's about holding your nerves and executing your plans. In such a big competition, it all depends on how someone shoots on that given day. My best wishes to them," Pagni said.

The Italian will be missed during the games but he said he would stay connected and follow their progress.

"I've given the instruction to the Indian coaching team who will accompany them. Moreover, my session was more about team building rather than correcting themselves. The likes of Abhishek and Rajat are highly experienced... I only made minor tweaks."

Unlike the compound archers who have been in excellent form, the recurve team has been going through some tough times in terms of results. Deepika Kumari finally regained her Midas touch in Salt Lake City when she won 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 with the likes of Atanu Das, Sukhchain Singh, Vishwas Kumar and Jagdish Chaudhary and 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."

Earlier, 12 arrows were shot by two contestants, but now there are five sets with three arrows in each set, with the winner of the set getting two points. “Many times, they have squandered their lead after a good start, allowing their rivals to make a comeback," Dola explained.

That the Archery Association of India has been derecognised by the Indian government for more than half a decade has not helped. The recurve team has not had a foreign coach for a fair amount of time now, and the format of the selection trials for the national team has raised several questions.

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.

With PTI inputs.

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| Edited by: Suyash Upadhyaya
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