Perfection in archery is easily measured. It’s right there – that dot right in the middle of that yellow ring indicates a bullseye. India took that perfection to another level in compound archery, winning all five gold medals on offer at the Hangzhou Asian Games – an unprecedented clean sweep.
Prior to Hangzhou, South Korea had won four of the seven golds awarded in the discipline at the Asian Games. India is now the most successful nation in Asiad sports with six golds (one won in 2014). Not since hockey at the Olympics all those years ago has India dominated a sport like this.
This year’s Gold Rush features six archers – Jyoti Surekha Vennam, Ojs Praveen Deotale, Abhishek Verma, Aditi Swamy, Parneet Kaur and Prathmesh Samadhan Jawakar – four of whom are already world champions.
The stage in Hangzhou, in a sense, brought even more pressure than the World Championships, because of the intense public gaze in India. But on the big stage there was no capitulation, no flinching; India’s compound archers came, hit their bullseye, conquered all before them.
The dominance was almost scary to watch, even more so between Ojs and Abhishek in the men’s individual final. Coming into the final, Ojs, 21, had already shot 15 perfect 10 second shots in the quarterfinals and semifinals each. And he started the finals with a streak of perfect 10s, matching the 34-year-old’s debut.
Right up to eight shots, when Abhishek hit a wayward eight. He looked up at the sky, knowing for certain that his shot at gold was gone – his teammate, who he knew so well, would never miss. Ojas continued his perfect performance, adding 10 more to his thirty from earlier. A nine on his eleventh shot proved unnecessary – and four 10 seconds later Ojs had his gold.
In the entire individual event, 68 of the 75 shots he made were under 10 seconds. Gold? They need to upgrade his medal.
Abhishek, wearing a relieved smile all the while, knew the inevitability of the outcome. He even found time to share a joke with coach Sergio Pagni as Ojas continued his march to gold.
For the Indian fans (that was the Recurve team), it was something very new – an Indian in a final is usually an exciting affair, all hopes and dreams – it was a relaxed Saturday morning walk.
Even Jyothi’s final an hour ago had an air of inevitability about it. He started with an 8 (later ruled a nine after review) and drew gasps from the audience. Asiad gold medalist Tai Chaon and powerhouse South Korea at the other end – will Jyoti collapse?
There is no chance. And as if to ram the point home, he sent his next fourteen arrows into the center circle. His first individual Asian Games gold came after missing the start of the 2014 edition and a lack of support for the sport in general.
A federation that had always prioritized the Recurve contingent — once pulling out the entire compound team from an event, after a coach gave a false-positive Covid-19 test so as not to endanger the Recurve team — was now witnessing their Recurve team cheering on unusual siblings.
Jyoti was a picture of contentment atop the stage as the song blared, Ojas wiped away tears. Yet their fight is not over. They came with the goal of bringing their sport into the national consciousness within India, becoming a household name. They have achieved that.
Trivial fact that compound archery is not an Olympic sport. Which translates to a lack of funding for these six gold medalists. This clean sweep in the Asian Games should help, but until the Olympic Committee includes the event, the likes of Jyoti and Ojs will remain in the background, especially when the Paris Olympics come next year.
Medals from these Games, the euphoria needs to be supported, as India will only see their faces at the 2026 Asian Games in Nagoya. Three years is a long time in sports – will they be the same champions today?
Reports indicate that the 2028 LA Games may include a compound archery event. It’s five years away and will require some patience — but for these six gold stars, no goal is too far off. They will always find that center point.