Indian archery has come a long way since I won my first gold in the Nationals as a sub-junior more than two decades back.
Even 10 years back, we were shooting scores of around 700 in the FITA round. Scores above 1300 by our top-level archers is commonplace now. India are now a powerhouse. It is true that we are yet to win an Olympic medal, but for the first time in London our team went in with a realistic chance of winning a medal.
Deepika Kumari, who has won both the Cadet and Youth World Championships, and Jayanta Talukdar have lifted the profile of Indian archery. Nowadays, even Korea do not take us lightly. If we can improve on our mental buildup, an Olympic medal is not beyond us.
Double the effort
After our failure at London, we need to double, even redouble our training programme. By that I don’t mean just practice. We need scientific mental training programmes and import the latest developments. But instead of being on the warpath to crack the Olympic riddle four years on, we have already wasted four months. Worse still, the sword of de-recognition hangs on our heads. If that happens, the Archery Association of India will not be affected, but archery will definitely take a beating.
If the government washes its hands off, camps will suffer. Most top archers are employed by public sector units and there is a scheme of 300-days leave for being part of the centre of excellence. But if government-backed national camps are stopped, it will be difficult for archers to get leave from their respective workplaces.
Since 2006, we have been regularly participating in all the four World Cups and almost every year India have had a presence in the grand finale. We have won countless medals and the confidence showed when the women's team won the World Championship silver defeating Korea. The government bears expenses of all these foreign trips. It will be difficult to find sponsors for every exposure trip. Next year, we have the Asian Championships and World Championships in Antalya. The Asian Games in Incheon is in 2014. Preparations should have started by now. Hopefully, it will begin after the Nationals in December end.
It is our international performance that has made us what we are. We have got jobs because of that. I am the first archer to be recruited by the Railways and now there are so many that we organise inter-railway archery championships. But recruitment will stop if international performance doesn't happen. We could push the next generation away from archery and that will be something that the federation will not be able to mend in a year.
The writer is an archer and founding president of the Archery Players’ Association of India