Away from the arc lights of the just-concluded IPL, Indian archers quietly made history last week when they won gold in the third leg of the World Cup at Antalya, Turkey. The archery world cup is held every year in four legs. On their way to slinging glory, the Indian men’s recurve team surged past former world champions Korea, Italy, US, France and Australia. As if that wasn’t enough to cheer for a country starved of major international sporting triumphs, these Arjunas bettered the previous record of 2,031 points held by the Koreans since 1996. This reflects a newfound confidence among Indian archers that augurs well for the future of the sport in the country.
For a while in the late 80s and early 90s, Indian archery was on the upswing, thanks to the Sports Authority of India’s Special Area Games (SAG) scheme that nurtured sporting talent. It blooded many players in different disciplines, particularly from the North-east, and the tribal areas of Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal, Orissa and south India. Indian archery benefited enormously from this. In fact, most of the members of the present gold-winning team come from Jharkhand, which is proving to be a wellspring for champion archers. Unfortunately, the Archery Association of India (AAI) failed to consolidate this talent base and allowed the standard of Indian archers to dip.
Archery is an expensive sport and buying carbide bows may be shooting for the moon for state associations. But Indian archers are clearly excelling without much help, while other sports — even those that seldom get medals — are marketed so vigorously. The World Cup triumph gives the AAI an excellent opportunity to promote the sport at the grass-roots level. The inherent strength of powerhouses in archery like Korea is obviously the talent base nurtured at the school level. The AAI should give promising archers proper training and competitive exposure, besides the latest in equipment. Only then can Indian archers stride the world scene like Limba Ram and Lalrem Sanga once did.