Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari: A couple on a mission

Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari understand that being on top of their game is of utmost importance as it is essential to garner life-defining personal glory as well as unprecedented laurels for the country at the Tokyo Olympics. And their interpersonal rapport is special and unique.

Both Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari know the essence of archery lies in the mind. They have been consulting a Mumbai based psychologist, Jahnvi Bhambre (who has been working with Deepika since 2017 and with Atanu since 2018), to keep the mental side of their game under control.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Atanu Das and his wife Deepika Kumari bring their work home, but it does not affect them adversely. The two top stars, who are key members of the Olympic-bound Indian archery side, have made the sport part of their daily life and in turn have reaped benefits out of it.

They understand that being on top of their game is of utmost importance as it is essential to garner life-defining personal glory as well as unprecedented laurels for the country at the Tokyo Olympics.

Their interpersonal rapport is special and unique and pushes them in their mission, which cannot be entirely termed a personal goal.

READ: AAI withdraws Indian archery team from World Cup Stage-2  

“It helps a lot because we know a lot about each other and know about each other’s team. Sometimes our team members cannot speak about a few things, but we can do that with each other. If something is wrong in my team, then Atanu tells me and vice versa. We can talk to each other directly. Openness helps. As team members we try to help each other,” says Deepika, a multiple World Cup gold medal winner and a World championships medallist.

Atanu throws more light. “We know each other so well, what is happening in each other’s body and mind. We discuss our game daily. A tournament is not a different experience for us. We take part in tournaments daily. We can speak the truth on one another’s face, point out mistakes without thinking twice. Others may hesitate to do that,” says Atanu, who secured his first World Cup gold in Guatemala recently.

Despite all the hardships and uncertainties due to international flights — which resulted in the archers taking a circuitous route and traveling 86 hours to return from Guatemala to the Pune camp — the World Cup Stage I was a fine outing for the Indian archers who took part in an international event after 15 months. They claimed three gold medals and a bronze, including the individual gold medals of Atanu and Deepika.

READ: Indian archers to miss Swiss World Cup  

“It was a bit strange to take part in an international event after so long, but it was a good experience,” says Deepika.

For Atanu, it was a mixture of excitement and fear (of the unknown). “No matter how much you practice, unless you get into a tournament you don’t know where you stand. After the 2016 Rio Olympics, I have been working on my mistakes. This performance tells me that my work is on the right track. I have spotted some mistakes in Guatemala and I will try to rectify those so that I don’t make them in future events including the Olympics,” says Atanu.

“No matter how much you practice, unless you get into a tournament you don’t know where you stand. After the 2016 Rio Olympics, I have been working on my mistakes. This performance tells me that my work is on the right track. I have spotted some mistakes in Guatemala and I will try to rectify those so that I don’t make them in future events including the Olympics,” says Atanu.   -  Getty Images

 

Both Atanu and Deepika understand that the essence of archery lies in the mind. They have been consulting a Mumbai based psychologist, Jahnvi Bhambre (who has been working with Deepika since 2017 and with Atanu since 2018), to keep the mental side of their game under control.

“Archery is a mind game up to 90 to 95 per cent. After a point, the skill level gets set and you need to fine-tune it. The mind behaves differently in different situations — matches, tournaments, conditions. You need to handle those situations. You should know how to handle nervousness, anxiety and deal with it on the spot,” says Deepika.

READ: Archery World Cup: Deepika, Atanu shoot gold; India finishes with four medals

Atanu agrees. “Our psychologist comes to the camp, generally once a week. We have face to face, video and phone interactions. In World championships, Asian championships, World Cup, whatever I wanted I could do because of her guidance. Earlier I had interactions with other psychologists, but I did not find their approach to be logical. Whatever she (Jahnvi) tells sounds logical. On the ground we face different situations. You cannot do just meditation (and find solutions to every problem). You need to learn how to control your thoughts and handle pressure (in a match situation).”

Perhaps it is the time he has spent with Jahnvi that helps Atanu look at adversities, including the quarantine before every event, differently during this pandemic.

“At least we are able to compete. It is not a contact sport and that is a plus point. Despite quarantine, we can compete. Overall, I don’t think it will make a big difference. Staying in quarantine, shooting without practice, shooting after a long gap — we are used to it now,” says Atanu, reflecting on the tough experience on the Guatemala trip.

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Deepika also counts on the positives from Guatemala and tries to carry those into the last Olympic qualifying event in Paris in mid-June. “Winning builds confidence. You know what you need to shoot, whether you have made a mistake, how you are faring. It is not necessary that since we have won something we have not made mistakes. We need to analyse and rectify those mistakes to perform even better.”

Even though she has earned a solitary quota place, Deepika understands the importance of bagging a team slot in the Olympics to give the country and each archer more than one opportunity to go for a medal.

In this, as the senior most archer of the women’s side, she has a bigger role — that of a mentor — to play along with her crucial role as an archer.

“Mentoring is a big role for me. Sometimes they think I may be angry with them. I need to extract what is going on inside the younger archers’ minds. As a senior, if I say I fear something, then they can come forward and express themselves. Sometimes you need to play mind games so that they open up and perform with a free mind and enjoy the performance instead of fearing. It is essential to perform with a free mind.

“I rate my team highly. We are working hard. We know where we stand and are training accordingly. We are trying to make ourselves strong to face every kind of moment.”

“Winning builds confidence. You know what you need to shoot, whether you have made a mistake, how you are faring. It is not necessary that since we have won something we have not made mistakes. We need to analyse and rectify those mistakes to perform even better,” says Deepika.   -  Getty Images

 

Here, the innovation at the camp, inside the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune, to recreate a Tokyo Games like ambience for practice may hold the archers in good stead. Because at the highest level you need to discard all possible distractions and focus on the bull’s eye.

“There is no need to do anything different technically. We need to work mentally. We lag mentally in big events,” underlines Deepika, who will compete in her third Olympics.

Atanu, who does not have to think about the men’s team qualification as he has already ensured it by securing a team silver medal with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav in the 2019 World championships, feels sound planning prior to the mega event will have its benefits.

READ: Archery: No compound now!  

“We should have a good plan for acclimatisation and quarantine before the Olympics. After the quarantine, we need at least seven to 10 days of practice to get into rhythm,” says Atanu, expecting to compete in his second Olympics.

And what if the Olympics is cancelled?

“If it (the cancellation) happens, it happens. We do not think about it unnecessarily. The Olympics is not a different event. The Olympics happens daily, we prepare like that. We apply ourselves like that on a daily basis,” says Atanu, reflecting the couple’s idea of excelling every day for the biggest sporting spectacle.

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