Atanu Das: Qualifying for Olympics is the first target

One of India's finest archers, Atanu Das says the primary target is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 through World Championships.

Atanu Das (left) won bronze in the recently-concluded National Archery Championship in Cuttack. Deepika Kumari didn't win a medal.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das – two of the finest archers the country has ever produced – are now engaged to each other and are going through a similar phase of rediscovering their touch in the run-up to next year's Olympics.

Deepika, a decorated archer with medals in the World championships and the World Cup, was not in great mood after ending up without a medal in the National championships in Cuttack a few days ago. Atanu managed a bronze.

After the national selection trials for recurve archers at the KIIT University ground, both were relaxed. Atanu came second among men, while Deepika was the best among women following the rigorous trials, where they shot eight rounds for a ranking and went through 11 one-on-one duels.

Deepika, who struggled for the feel at the Nationals, was visibly relieved. “It (the trials) went off well,” said 24-year-old Deepika. She was reluctant to elaborate.

Well-known coach Dharmendra Tiwari, who has been the guide for Deepika over the years, threw some light. “I am happy to see Deepika's performance in the trials. Before this she had doubts. After reaching a level, it's all about confidence,” he said.

Deepika and Atanu are obtaining psychological help to get better in the trade they ply.

Atanu, much wiser after his narrow loss in the Rio Olympics quarterfinals, does not mind giving an idea about the process he is going through.

“Maybe I had a psychological issue (in Rio). When you lose by one or two milimeters, then either it is your luck or a psychological issue. I cannot sit quietly thinking that I was unlucky. I have started working on it and I wish to peak at the right time,” said Atanu, a multiple World Cup medallist.

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“The first target is qualifying for the Olympics through the World championships. If we qualify as men and women teams, we will have three team events (including mixed) and two individual events and maximum chances.”

Atanu, 26, switched to a personal target. “If I repeat what I did in the last Olympics, then there is no charm. I want to present a better and upgraded version of myself in the next Olympics than what I was – the way I looked, the way I behaved or the way I performed – in the last Olympics.

“Everything is in process. My aim is big. I don't mind sacrificing the smaller ones, but I want the cream.”

According to Atanu, too much exposure does not help Indian archers. “The difference between the winner and the loser is sometimes one milimeter. When you try to achieve everything, you either lose focus or get injured while going for the main target.

“In top countries, they select specific archers for specific events. The archers remain fresh and hungry. When you keep competing and keep getting medals in other events, your hunger is satiated. If we go to the Olympics starving, then we will pounce on medals,” concludes Atanu.