Archer Simranjeet Kaur hitting her targets, eyes Olympics berth - Hindustan Times
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Archer Simranjeet Kaur hitting her targets, eyes Olympics berth

ByRutvick Mehta, Mumbai
Dec 12, 2023 01:37 PM IST

A member of the women’s recurve bronze-winning team at the Hangzhou Asian Games, the 25-year-old from Punjab has put her indifferent run behind.

Simranjeet Kaur, part of the trio that won the women’s recurve team bronze at the Hangzhou Asian Games, vividly remembers a peculiar night growing up in Abohar, Punjab. Coached by her father, she didn’t complete her usual volume of arrows during an evening’s training session and went to bed thinking she’ll make up for it the next day.       

Simranjeet Kaur of India during the Women's recurve team finals at the Hyundai Archery World Cup last year(Getty)
Simranjeet Kaur of India during the Women's recurve team finals at the Hyundai Archery World Cup last year(Getty)

“It was 9pm, yet I wasn’t getting any sleep. So, I woke up at 10, shot till 12.30am in our home set-up and completed my set,” Simranjeet recalled. “Only then did I get sleep.”   

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Dedication always came naturally to Simranjeet, 25. Desired results, however, did not necessarily follow. That was until a year ago when she won a World Cup team silver to end a fruitless few seasons in terms of medals. She has two of them this year: bronze at the World Cup stage in Paris in August followed by the bronze in Hangzhou. That Asian Games medal, with Ankita and Bhajan Kaur, was the first for India in the Olympic recurve discipline after 13 years.       

The two team medals, coming after a disappointing quarter-final exit at the Berlin World Championships that offered Paris Olympics spots, have only fuelled Simranjeet’s belief of seizing on the couple of remaining opportunities next year for a team spot at the Games. 

“After the World Championships, as a team we got back to work with a heavy heart. So, these two medals are very crucial for us, because it can be the stepping stone. We have two more chances to qualify for the Olympics and the medals gives us the confidence for that,” she said in Mumbai. 

It also gave Simranjeet a shot of belief in her abilities. For a few years prior to 2022, she believed she was caught in a “chain of losing”, as she put it, before she managed to break through it.           

The change came in her approach, from every aspect. Simranjeet thought hard work alone would suffice for success at the elite level until she realised more things come into play: mental training, strength and conditioning, diet plan, etc. A visit to the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai earlier this year gave her access to them. Her fat percentage has come down from around 35 to 27 — she was in the city this week for her periodic assessment — and the muscle mass has increased. Meanwhile in the mind, she decided to stop paying heed to outside voices.   

“The three years prior to these two years were difficult for me. I was struggling technically and in my strength training too. I was working hard but the results weren’t coming. Other people would say, ‘bahut time ho gaya, kitna aur try karegi (It’s been long, how much more will you try)?’ But my father told me, ‘if there’s one trait in you, it is that you don't give up easily’. That’s how I kept going. And those failures have meant that whatever I’ve achieved in the last two years, I want to do more,” she said.   

Home training 

Her father, a former wrestler, has been the backbone of Simranjeet’s career. A school teacher by profession, he suggested archery to his sports-inclined daughter after she’d tried taekwondo and table tennis in school because the sport was individual driven. Immediately after school, the two would head to the nearby ground to train. They even set up their own range outside their home. “At times in June-July when it was really hot, we were the only people at the ground shooting arrows. People thought we were mad,” she said.   

Home taught and trained, Simranjeet was based in SAI Sonepat for a while but has now chosen to return to her preferred training spot. It has its pros and cons. “The biggest downside is that we tend to feel easy at home. However, if I challenge myself enough, I don’t feel like I’m in my comfort zone. Plus, mental peace is important in our game. At home, you’re mentally relaxed and you can work on your specific shortcomings,” she said.   

Mental training has increasingly become an integral part of her routines. Struggling with it initially, Simranjeet, with the help of a sports psychologist, has learnt the art of “keeping your mind indulged throughout”. Into the world of reels not too long ago, she plans to get off social media for the next few months and reduce her screen time. 

“I want to give it my all for this phase,” she said. 

That phase will include two more shots at the Paris quota as a team — through a couple of qualifying events in March-April — to go with the Olympic trials at home where the team dynamics could change. There’s also the ranking route to the Games (the Indian women’s team is 8th in the world) but for Simranjeet, that’s the “last option”. 

“We want to earn the qualification,” she said. “And I’m very sure about getting there. Last year, all three of us were very new as a team. We now know what to do.”

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