Atanu Das one of India’s most successful male archer. In spite of his achievements, he remains understated and uncomfortable in facing up to public adulation or media glare.
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27-year-old archer says, “The success at the World Championship proves that we are back on track but the biggest challenge now is to ensure that our preparations are meticulously planned till the Olympics.” Das, along with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav, finished second behind China at the World Championships in the Netherlands last month to earn quota places for the Olympics.
“Atanu has always been very talented but I think there has been a remarkable transformation since 2015 when he realized that he could become one of the very best in the world. He became more focused and more serious about archery,’’ recounts Rahul Banerjee, who represented India in the 2012 London Olympics and a former teammate of Das. “The first time everyone started taking notice about this precocious talent was when he was selected for the Youth Olympics in 2010,’’ says Banerjee.
“I had first noticed Atanu when he was just 15 at the sub-junior nationals in Chhattisgarh. I had offered him to join the Army Sports Institute in Pune but he had already joined the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur,’’ says Mime Singh Gurung, one of the coaches with the current Indian archery team. Ironically, Gurung is now busy drawing the roadmap ahead for Das and other Indian archers in lead up to the Olympics.
At Rio Olympics, Das was the lone male archer from India and had performed creditably reaching the pre-quarters before losing a very tight contest against South Korea’s Seungyun Lee. The score sheet 28-30, 30-28, 27-27, 27-28, 28-28 reflected how agonizingly close Das was to make it to the last eight.
“It had convinced me that more than the skills, it was important for me to learn how to hold on to your nerves in crunch situations. So, in the last couple of years, I have been more focused on mental conditioning. Before practice sessions, I make it a point to visualize tense match situations so that I am more prepared when I am actually facing an opponent in close battles.’’
This came in handy during the match against Canada at the World Championship for a place in the Olympics. India held an advantage of 4-2 going into the last set (2 points are awarded for winning a set, 1 point if the set is tied). In a tense finish, Atana had to hit a perfect 10 with his last arrow to level the set and win the contest. He did not lose his composure and signed off with a 10 to book a berth for Tokyo.
Indian recurve archers had returned empty-handed in the last two Asian Games and their dwindling fortunes had raised an alarm.
“We just fared poorly and there were no excuses. It was important for us not to spend too much time in mourning over it. We were not completely off-target. It was just that we were found wanting in crucial moments of the matches,’’ explains Das.
Asserts Gurung said, “My observation was that the archers were not taking pre-tournament training very seriously and there was a need to enforce a bit of discipline. We made it mandatory for the archers to attend all the practice sessions.’’
“We keep a very close eye on each other’s performance – be it during matches or even during practice sessions. It always helps when you can discuss what has gone right or wrong with someone you are close to. But I always get very tensed when Deepika is shooting in competitions. At times, it is too difficult to watch,’’ reveals Das.
Indian women’s Faile to take place In Olympic 2020
India’s women team failed to qualify for the Olympics but women archers will get an opportunity to make it to the Olympics in the individual events through the Asian Championships this year and the Stage 3 and the final Olympic qualifying tournament in Berlin next year. This could mean Das and Deepika could become the first husband-wife pair from India to take part in the Olympics archery event.
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