Indian women’s compound archery landed in Hangzhou as world champions, they will leave it as Asian Games gold medalists.
This might have been expected given their pedigree, but it was not routine: not by a margin.
Jyoti Surekha Vennam, Aditi Swamy and Parneet Kaur continued India’s dominance in compound archery at the Games on day three: we have now seen an All-India semi-final, an All-India final set up and already a mixed team gold medal. But Thursday morning had a new challenge in store – gusty wind speeds that affected their ever-reliable perfect 10 arrows and the enormous pressure of having an early deficit in the final.
India overcame both with clutch shooting to remind them why this team is the world champion.
The Indians had a memorable debut against Chinese Taipei in the final. With only 10 hits from 6 arrows (each archer finally took a turn to shoot twice), the steadfast Jyoti found only the yellow center circle.
In the opening end 56-54 they led their opponents India by two points, despite a wild 7.
The pressure was on India as favourites, while Chinese Taipei were coming off an upset win over South Korea. They followed with three more 10s and India had two more hits in 9… a minute and a half and the final was already in trouble.
Next 3 arrows:
Talk about delivering under pressure together as a team. India had a slim lead at 112-111. They have to hold on now.
But they lost it after the next three arrows as Taipei 30 and India a 29, Parneet had a lone 9. Then there were 30 more from Taipei, who quickly regrouped after the bad arrows had stopped.
After that India needed to be perfect…which they were. A perfect 30.
Coach Sergio Pagni had faith in them, the team kept their body language positive and the smile on 17-year-old world champion Aditi’s face remained steadfast, even as the wind blew around them and the scoreboard kept the pressure on.
Having a winning combination here had to help. They each knew their strengths and trusted each other. Remember, two days ago Jyoti and Aditi faced off for a place in the finals in a repeat of the World Championship. This time Jyoti won and Kishori was unfazed by her defeat as it came against “her idol”. That’s a special combination right there.
Going into a final over, the scores were level at 171-171 and there was no margin for error.
India shot first, Parneet with a 10 but Aditi hit a 9 while the experienced Jyoti, always shooting last in threes, hit the center again. It met Chinese Taipei.
With 3 arrows left, things are still tied at 200-200. It has to be a perfect 30 again or India will have no control over their destiny. Used to have 9s but can’t afford them now.
This time, the pressure got to Chinese Taipei and their fourth arrow was a 9-match gold medal for India.
The final was a rollercoaster until he came from behind to win gold before the end of the match. But India ended up on top.
Each of the three stumbled at some point, with a 9 that could mean the difference between gold and silver. But each of them could pick themselves up and shoot with 10 to keep India in the hunt.
The highlight was the consistency of Jyoti, who won her second consecutive gold medal in as many days with just 9 shots out of her 8 arrows. It is a platform that he has longed for and he is shining in the spotlight.
Much has been said in these pages about the importance of these Asian Games for Indian compound archery. Today was another reminder of why.