Although India has been one of the leading nations when it comes to archery, they have never made it big at the Olympics.
Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi, both multiple World Cup winners, were expected to take the 2016 Rio Olympics by storm. However, both of them were shown the door in the round-of-16 in the women’s individual event.
Going into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, hopes are high again, with the archers producing some sensational performances in the recently concluded Olympics qualification events.
So far, four archers have already qualified for the Games - Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai, Pravin Jadhav and Deepika Kumari have made the cut. This includes individuals as well as the men’s team event.
Pravin Jadhav, hailing from the Satara district of Maharashtra, qualified for his first-ever Olympics. Even though he claimed a Silver medal in the 2019 World Championships, winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics will surely surpass all achievements in the past.
The Recurve Archer spent the entire lockdown period at the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in Pune, months away from his home.
He returned to the competitive circuit a few days ago, emerging as the top archer in the selection trials. With him still stationed at the Army Sports Institute, Sportskeeda managed to catch-up with the Tokyo Olympics-bound athlete for an interview.
Pravin Jadhav speaks on the Army Sports Institute, preparing for the Olympics, concerns, and targets
You spent the entire lockdown in Pune at the Army Sports Institute, how has it helped you develop as a player?
During the lockdown months, I’ve improved a lot physically. We did not get a lot of time to practice, but there was a lot going into the physical aspect. We were working so hard on physical fitness that it was on par with any weightlifter or wrestler.
This (Army Sports Institute) was made into a quarantine center, so we used to get two hours in the morning and an hour in the evening for practice which was sufficient for 200 shots per day combined. Sometimes, the number increased, but it was 200 shots minimum.
Later on, when the quarantine center was cut-off, when the cases were under control, we got back our normal practice schedule, with three hours in the training area each morning and evening.
During that time, we truncated physical exercises and gave more stress on practice sessions just like before and tried to shoot as many arrows as possible.
However, with the lack of international events, did the lockdown have an adverse effect?
Yes. When the first trial took place, I faced a lot of problems. We were competing in a tournament after one year. It’s not that we fared poorly, but there’s a difference in games when you shoot continuously and when you shoot after a gap of one year. We had prior practice, but that was not sufficient for a competition.
Now, with the added preparation time gained, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, do you think the Indian Archery team is in a better position to claim a medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?
We were also prepared for the Olympics back then, if it had taken place. Even though a lockdown was imposed, we did not expect it to continue for so many months. We have a mindset of keeping ourselves prepared for whenever the event takes place.
We were not thinking about the pandemic so much, but as the days passed, the situation became worse. When it was called-off, we looked at it as more preparation time before the Tokyo Olympics. We never disturbed ourselves too much pondering about what’s going to happen in the future.
It is unlikely that the support staff will travel with the team, with the organizing committee not allowing foreign visitors to the Games. Is that going to pose a threat to the players?
We are going to face problems. The players will be in a mind frame to avoid injuries since physios are not going to travel with us. The support staff is quite confident in us, the physio, the masseur. After traveling, we need the support staff.
Many of the archers have already inculcated a habit of taking massages and physio training following training sessions. So if we do qualify for subsequent rounds and there is a one-day gap in between, the athlete generally wants to take a massage, but that won’t happen.
You mostly had the company of veteran Archer Tarundeep Rai in Pune, how did the valuable inputs from him help you in improving your game?
Atanu and Tarundeep used to motivate me in every situation and helped me to handle it. If anything did not go as per plans, they used to help me get over it by giving away valuable advice. Tarundeep used to say that the lockdown was not applicable for us, so you need to accept the situation and move forward.
How confident were you of making it to the Olympic contingent before the qualification event?
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We were confident. The Army Sports Institute has been very supportive, they even threw a party before we went to the Olympics qualifiers, wishing us luck for the event. But we said that qualification is not the aim, we are going to bring back a medal. We are confident enough to bring back a medal, not just take part in the Tokyo Olympics.