The presence of all the top archers barring Deepika Kumari, who is expecting her first child with archer husband Atanu Das, made the National Games at the Sanskardham Complex in Ahmedabad a competitive event. Most of the international-level stars, however, fell prior to the semifinals in both men’s and women’s sections of the compound and recurve divisions.
The lopsided draw spoiled the charm in the recurve men’s individual competition: four Olympians, including top-ranked Jayanta Talukdar, Atanu, Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav, were clubbed in one half based on their performances in the ranking round.
Nevertheless, it was an occasion for Atanu to rediscover himself. He had had a disappointing outing in the Tokyo Olympics, and a below-par showing in the selection trials had resulted in his absence from the Indian team through the 2022 calendar.
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Atanu beat such formidable opponents as Parth Salunkhe, defending champion Tarundeep, and last edition’s silver medallist Gurucharan Besra (Services archer Besra was beaten 6-4 in the final) en route to the title — his maiden gold medal at the National Games. He drew a lot of confidence from his performance. “After the Olympics, I felt a burden. I took a two-month break to get over that loss mentally. I travelled a lot. But in my mind, there was only the Olympics,” said Atanu, who represented West Bengal.
On the right track
Atanu said that the Tokyo failure had taught him to “neutralise” the pressure of the professional front on his personal life. He was pleased that the hard work he had put in by training in different cities across the country had paid off. “To get a gold here means that my preparations are on the right path,” he said.
In the women’s section, such reputed archers as Ankita Bhakat, Komalika Bari and Bhajan Kaur exited early as Sangeeta defeated young challenger Anshika Kumari Singh of Jharkhand 6-2 in the final to claim the individual title. Later, Sangeeta helped Haryana secure the women’s team crown.
Haryana dominated the recurve division, bagging four out of five gold medals on offer. Of the four gold medals, the men’s team title came without the final being staged as Services could not take the field due to the unavailability of Jadhav, who was hospitalised with dengue.
In the compound division, even as elite archers including Abhishek Verma, Rajat Chauhan and Aman Saini lost early, 20-year-old Rishabh Yadav beat Ojas Detale 148-147 in the summit clash to emerge as the champion.
Sixteen-year-old Aditi Swami took advantage of the premature ouster of triple World Championships silver medallist V. Jyothi Surekha and Priya Gurjar to beat two strong rivals — Punjab’s Parneet Kaur 147-143 in the semifinals and Delhi’s Pragati 144-143 in the final — to win the women’s individual gold.
Aditi combined with her Maharashtra mates to secure the women’s team gold as well.
The Games should help the archers, including the recurve archers aspiring to compete in the 2024 Olympics, prepare for the hectic 2023 calendar. They will have to gear up for the Asian Championships, Asian Games, World Cups, World Championships, and a loaded domestic season.