India’s top archer Atanu Das and World No. 1 archer Deepika Kumari are among the best in business. The couple have been on the leaderboard of World Archery for quite some time now and are some of the most talented players on the circuit.
Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari aren’t strangers to adversities and having won over them in style, they know that being on top of the game at all times is very essential to achieve more laurels and to bring personal glory.
The duo have tasted mixed success in the last few months with the Archery World Cup in Guatemala and Paris being the highs while the Tokyo Olympics and the World Cup Final in Yankton being the lows.
Tackling both laurels and brickbats equally with enough composure is the name of the game and both Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari have been on cue. The star couple have remained grounded as they reach the skies and as they bow out on a whimper, they have also been quick to introspect.
In a freewheeling conversation with Sportskeeda, Atanu Das opened up on a variety of topics including the Tokyo Olympics, the Archery World Cup Final and the road ahead.
Talking on the Olympics, Atanu Das said they expected to finish on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics but it didn’t go as per plan as the duo were ousted before entering the medal rounds.
“The Tokyo Olympics was understandably a disaster for both Deepika and myself. We did expect a podium finish in one event but in the end, it wasn’t to be. We tried hard and it is a game and these things happen is what we have to understand.”
On introspection, the archery couple decided to take it slow and take a breather that would help them refocus on their game. Atanu Das said:
“We went on a vacation to Leh and Ladakh. It was a much-needed one. We wanted some family time. We thought maybe we were taking our game more seriously than we should have. The break did rejuvenate us.”
World Cup - a learning curve for Atanu Das
Post the break, Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari competed in the World Cup Final in Yankton, USA. Having won the gold medal in the Guatemala edition helped Atanu Das to qualify for the World Cup Final.
Before the Tokyo Olympics, Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari won the gold medal in the mixed team event at the Paris stage of the Archery World Cup and were bullish on winning a medal at the World Cup Final in Yankton. However, the duo lost their bronze-medal matches to return empty handed. On the World Cup Final, Atanu Das said:
“It was my first World Cup Final. I qualified after winning the gold medal in the Guatemala leg. The experience of playing in my first World Cup Final was very enriching. It is a different tournament – there are no rankings, no qualifications and the matches are decided through a draw system. It is only one day before the event; we get to know our opponent.”
Atanu Das, however, emerged with a lot of learning from the tournament, which he said would help him go a long way in shaping himself for the future.
“I always look to constantly upgrade myself both technically and physically. The World Cup Final gave me that space to enjoy and learn at the same time.”
Atanu Das and Deepika have each other's back
Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari have always been at each other's side when the other plays their respective matches. Photos and videos of the couple cheering for each other at the Tokyo Olympics and at the Archery World Cup have taken social media by storm.
Atanu Das took over the coach’s mantle at the World Cup Final and was constantly at Deepika’s ear letting out a barrage of instructions.
“I was constantly asking Deepika to enjoy herself and not be stuck in the past or think about the future. I was telling her that she knew what had to be done and she has the skill and the ability to shoot well. The key for her was to remain in the present and that was what I was telling her all the time.”
Explaining Deepika’s match, Atanu Das said the last arrow was a surprise for everyone, including them. Deepika did extremely well to force a shoot-off and when it mattered, the ace Indian archer only managed a below-par 6 pointer and lost the match and a medal. Atanu Das explained:
“Deepika’s opponent was extremely on the money. She consistently scored 29s and 30s and was always ahead of Deepika by just one point in most of the sets. It was a very tough game for her. The shoot-off was shocking. None of us, including her, expected that 6-pointer from her. It was very hard to understand how it went off target.”
Atanu Das optimistic about the future
The couple have had a good break at their residence in Kolkata and are gearing up for the Archery National Championship, which is underway at the Tata Academy in Jamshedpur. The conditions and the academy precincts would bring happy memories to the couple as they spent their formative years in the academy.
“We have the Nationals and then the Asian Championship. We have a selection trial for the Asian Championships and we are looking forward to that. The long-term target is to win a medal in the Asian Games. We have sufficient time to prepare, make adjustments to our game and go for a medal.”
For the future, Atanu Das has his plans chalked out clearly. The couple have been consulting a Mumbai-based psychologist, Jahnvi Bhambre, to work on the mental side of their game. Giving an insight into how they plan to take on the upcoming tournaments, Atanu Das said:
“What is most important for both of us is a change in mindset (about the sport) and lifestyle. We have understood that we need to enjoy the sport and not take it too seriously or hard on ourselves. We have won medals at many world-level tournaments and it is only an Olympic medal that is missing. Maybe that will happen in the future but for now, our focus is on changing our mindset.”