The year 2023 has been Pragati’s. She won gold and silver in the mixed team and women’s team compound events at the Chengdu FISU World University Games in addition to the seven medals at the Asian Grand Prix circuit.
Prior to the Chengdu Games, she won gold at the 2023 World Archery Youth Championship, where she, along with Avneet Kaur and Parneet Kaur, ensured that the women’s compound team beat Mexico 222-214.
However, three years ago, this was unimaginable for Pragati, who suffered a brain hemorrhage and was asked to take bed rest for months. After several rehabilitations and two neurosurgeries, she was finally able to walk.
“I first joined archery as I didn’t want to study, but it saved my life in 2020 as I had a brain hemorrhage. Even in ICU, I told them to discharge me as I have to practice archery and participate in a tournament,” said the 19-year-old.
In 2021, she came as an underdog and conquered the women’s compound event at the Indian junior national archery championship and has been scaling new heights ever since.
In Chengdu, her mixed team partner Aman Saini motivated her constantly and even told her to shoot only 10s in the finals against Korea, which helped them win 157-156.
“Aman was continuously telling me to hit 10s only. We were planning on hitting all on target, but we both missed one each, where I shot an eight, and he shot a nine. That is where we fell behind a bit,” she added.
Aman was the sole Indian archer to have won three medals, including one gold and two bronze in the men’s team and individual compound event, respectively, at the University Games.
With the crowd cheering for the Chinese archers, Aman, felt homesick. “The crowd here was good, however not as good as the ones in India,” said the Punjabi University student.
When asked if he missed the whistles, he said, “Yes.”
Feeling pressure during the gold medal match, Aman kept shouting to ease himself and motivate Pragati.
“The finals performance pressure was very intense, and that made me shout out and get it out of my system,” he added.
While Korea was touted as one of the strongest competitors in archery, the 26-year-old said his trainers never made him feel so.
“Back in India, in our training centre, our physiologist and coaches never hyped Korea, China and their performance. They always told us that we were the best, and that’s the mentality we came here with.”
As curtains fell on archery events, India ended its campaign with seven medals, including three gold, one silver and three bronze.
Archers Avneet, Sangampreet Singh dominated the individual compound proceedings to ensure the country’s biggest-ever medal tally in the sport at this tournament.
On the other hand, all was not good for the Indian recurve team, with the sole medal coming from the women’s team consisting of Reeta Sawaiyan, Tanisha Verma and Sangeeta. The trio lost to host China 4-5 before making a comeback against France 5-4 to win bronze.
“We made mistakes (in the semifinals), but that’s fine as we improved and made a comeback to win the bronze medal. We will ensure not to repeat the mistakes we made then,” said Tanisha.
The reporter is in Chengdu as a part of the FISU Young Reporters Program.
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