Asian Games: India’s compound archers deliver perfection, seize their moment in spotlight

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Two numbers stood out from the compound archery competition at the Hangzhou Asian Games on Tuesday morning. Three of the six who qualified for the medal are Indians. That’s half the medal winners – perhaps more if a fourth also qualifies. And one of them made 30 shots – count ’em – for perfect 10 seconds in a row in an incredible display of high-level consistency.

These three guaranteed medals in separate events; Men’s, women’s and mixed team events can have several more medals. Signs look good: India has women’s teams in compound archery alongside the current men’s and women’s world champions

India dominated compound archery in Hangzhou like no other sport, not even shooting. And ironically, on the flip side, it’s in a game that very few Indian sports fans know or have watched till this morning. Ask a casual sports observer about India’s archery legacy and they will talk about Limba Ram and Deepika Kumari, not Aditi Swamy or Ojas Deotale.

Perhaps that will change after an incredible half-hour on Tuesday, when India’s compound archers put on their best show, on the biggest stage and, equally important, on national television.

First, there was a thrilling all-India semi-final between 27-year-old veteran Jyoti Surekha Vennam and 17-year-old world champion Aditi Swamy who defeated Jyoti at this stage at the World Championships in August.

This time, Jyoti won in the end in a match that showed that there is no room for even the slightest error at this level. Eight of a total of 15 shots were par after 10 seconds; On the ninth, Jyoti shot 9 and Aditi, cheerful and energetic, shot 10 to lead the way. He held the lead for three more shots but then shot a 7 with his third-last arrow; Jyoti hit 10 seconds straight to take the lead, closing the window and going into the final.

Then came two stunning men’s semi-finals where Abhishek Verma, aged 34, and world champion Ojs Deotale (21) comfortably beat the two South Koreans to set up an all-India final.

South Korea’s composite record may not be as strong as their recurve record – it’s like China in table-tennis – but the ease with which the Indians won speaks to the depth of a team. It was Ozas who hit 15 straight 10 second shots, adding a perfect 15 in the quarterfinals, to underline his status as world champion.

It will surprise no one who has seen these archers of late:

• Jyoti has eight medals at the World Championships and two team medals at the 2018 Asian Games.
• Aditi won the Under-18 and Senior world titles within a month of each other this year, becoming India’s first archery senior world champion.
• Abhishek has reached the finals of the Asian Games in all three editions involving compound archery
• Ojs also shot a perfect 150 in the World Championship final to become the first Indian to win an individual world title.

Despite this touch of top-level respectability, however, their sport has been given stepchild treatment. The main reason for this is that compound archery, unlike the more familiar recurve, is not an Olympic sport. It was introduced at the Asian Games in 2014, and only team events were conducted in 2018. The unspecified reason for this is that compound archery uses more automatic bows than classical recurve bows, and is therefore looked down upon.

Jyoti spoke about this disparity after her World Championship exploits. “Just because compound archery is not included in the Olympics, we don’t get any support. Olympic athletes get a lot of support from non-governmental organizations or others, but we don’t,” he said. ESPN.

Archery is a very expensive sport, he noted. A top-level set-up Bow can cost between ₹3.5-4.5 lakh. A set of a dozen arrows costs around ₹40,000 and it takes around ₹65,000-70,000 to prepare them for shooting. All equipment has to be imported from the US so it also depends on the dollar rate and exchange rate.

Lack of individual support is a chronic problem in Indian sports but such support is usually reserved for more visible and effective sports. Compound archery is likely to be added to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Till then, Asiad and Worlds are the biggest platforms for the game and Indians have shined both

The consistency of these archers is evident from their results. But the Hangzhou outing proved they are confident of returning their consistency. The likes of Aditi and Ojs are still fresh to achieve this near-perfect finish under the harsh spotlight of a multi-sports event. Here, there was pressure they hadn’t felt before, perhaps even at the World Championships, because they knew the whole country was watching.

But they’ve wanted this for a long time, a chance to prove they’re up there with the best. And in the current Indian sportsscape, only a gold medal in a major event can do that. The archers have delivered – there will be at least one gold in Hangzhou. Now, the Indian game has to return the favour.

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