New-look Indian squad to debut next month in Antalya
Trials for this season’s Indian team finished on 30 March 2022 – and a squad missing some of the country’s biggest names has been unveiled for the first three stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya, Gwangju and Paris.
India will be represented by Jayanta Talukdar, Tarundeep Rai, Neeraj Chauhan, Sachin Gupta, two-time youth world champion Komalika Bari, Ankita Bhakat, Simranjeet Kaur and new national champion Ridhi Phor in the recurve events, and Abhishek Verma, Aman Saini, Rajat Chauhan, Mohan Ramswaroop Bhardwaj, Avneet Kaur, Muskan Kirar, Raginee Marko and Priya Gurjar in the compound competitions.
Glaring in the absence of the names from the list are married couple Deepika Kumari, the recurve women’s world number two, and Atanu Das, the recurve men’s world number nine.
Jyothi Surekha Vennam, who won the Indian national championships earlier this month and was the first compound woman to ever shoot a perfect 150-point match in a televised arena on the way to winning individual silver at the Hyundai World Archery Championships last September, also missed the cut.
Kumari, Das and Vennam were key in all India’s medal performances during the 2021 season – except the individual win Verma took at the leg in Paris.
Instead of rewarding any past successes, India’s opted for a more straightforward annual selection process – popularised by successful nations like Korea – and will instead rely on retuning veterans like Talukdar, mainstays like Rai, rising star Bari, and a collection of archery largely unproven on the international stage.
The trials took place at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Sonipat, Haryana over the past week with athletes eliminated at intermittent milestones until just eight in each category remained, with the top four of those being selected for this season’s major events. It’s expected that the archers who finished fifth to eighth will compete as a second team at the fourth stage of the international circuit in Medellin.
The top squad announced today is likely to be the same that is sent to the prestigious Asian Games, to be held in Guangzhou, China in September.
Some of the surprise names on the team have made waves in recent months. Ridhi Phor beat Deepika Kumari, 6-4, to the recurve women’s title at India’s 41st national championships in Jammu earlier in March, while Sachin Gupta beat Atanu Das, 6-2, to gold at the same event.
The international season begins on 18-24 April with the first stage of the 2022 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya, Turkey.
Overcoming the odds
New recurve team member Neeraj Chauhan spent his time during the pandemic lockdowns in India supporting his family by selling vegetables after his father lost his job.
The recently-crowned Indian recurve men’s national champion lost touch with archery. However, with government support for both him and his brother Sunil, a national-level boxer, he was able to return to the field, rekindle his love of the sport and return to form.
“I was fascinated with archery after seeing people play at a stadium near my house. I realised I was passionate about the sport,” said Neeraj to PTI. “When I started archery, I only had local equipment. I couldn’t afford anything else. From shoes to clothes, I compromised on everything but relentlessly kept practising.”
That commitment has paid off. Neeraj will make his international debut for India this season.
“Now my father doesn't have to go door-to-door in search of work,” said Chauhan, who is from Uttar Pradesh and now trains at the Sports Authority of India. “All I want is to repay what my country has given me in the form of a medal.”
His coach, Jitendra, claims Neeraj’s “best quality is to stay calm and grounded in any situation” and “not get excited too easily”.
Indian team for 2022
As of the results of trials on 30 March 2022.
- Tarundeep Rai
- Jayanta Talukdar
- Neerja Chauhan
- Sachin Gupta
- Ridhi Phor
- Komalika Bari
- Ankita Bhakat
- Simranjeet Kaur
- Abhishek Verma
- Aman Saini
- Rajat Chauhan
- Mohan Ramswaroop Bhardwaj
- Avneet Kaur
- Muskan Kirar
- Raginee Marko
- Priya Gurjar