A champion is made on the day – the rise of India’s compounds
The Indian recurve team, led by the stratospheric profile of Deepika Kumari, has taken most of the archery attention in a nation obsessed with Olympic medals. Kumari had a strong season in 2018, taking the individual gold medal in Salt Lake City and finishing with a bronze at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in Samsun.
While Kumari’s name is often in the headlines, since 2014 it has been India’s compound teams who have secured the majority of international medals.
A key part of that success has been Abhishek Verma, who also took a bronze medal in Samsun after sensationally knocking out defending champion Braden Gellenthien in his first match.
“All the top-eight guys, we’re kind of the same. I’ve beaten Braden before, at the 2015 World Cup Final,” he said. Abhishek took silver at that event.
The 29-year-old has 13 circuit podium finishes to his name.
“You see the guys like Mike [Schloesser], Stephan [Hansen] – they’re great archers but, at the moment, they’ve slipped. You play a lot of tournaments, it’s going to sometimes they win, sometimes you win, you know? It’s a part of the game, and part of sportsmanship,” he said.
“Indian compound is still growing. The government is supporting Indian compound archers and the standard is staying very high.”
After a great deal of investment and intense technical training in the USA, the Indian compound team had its major breakthrough at the 2014 Asian Games, taking the men’s team title and medalling in every event.
“This year [at the Asian Games in Jakarta] we took two medals as well. It’s good for us and good for India, and good for compound,” said Verma.
Despite current complications with the governance of the sport in India, archery in the country is growing.
“India is a huge hub for sport and we’ve increased the number of players in the last year. We had over 50,000 archers. In the last four years, that number has doubled. There’s been a lot of investment in a facility for us,” said Abhishek.
Coach Loksan Chang explained more: “We have 39 states in India and most now have more than 4000 archers. It’s now split quite well between compound and recurve, although the Olympic side of the sport gets more of the benefits. As well as this, we have tournaments with traditional bamboo bows, which everybody starts with in India.”
Verma, who became a father earlier in 2018, is already mixing his role as a top athlete with coaching.
“In fact, five of the players in the Asian Games were now trained by me. I do my best to push and promote the sport,” he said. Abhishek was also instrumental in bringing in experienced compound archer Sergio Pagni to help the squad in the build-up to Jakarta.
"What do we do differently? I try and make sure not to lose my patience. That’s what I say to myself every time. It happens: they lose some points and you gain. Always, I try and tell my mind just one thing: calm down, and think about your shooting,” he said.
“I tell the juniors that no-one is a champion. A champion is made on the day. When that day might come along, you need to be prepared.”