Talukdar overcomes personal tragedy to shoot in honour of father

Jayanta Talukdar at Paris 2022

Indian recurver Jayanta Talukdar has opened up about a number of topics to Sportstar magazine, a monthly publication from India’s The Hindu newspaper.

Talukdar is in Paris this week for the third stage of the 2022 Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit, where he is through to this afternoon’s last-64 after beating Great Britain’s Keith Harding, 7-1, yesterday.

It has been a long journey to now since April 2021 when Talukdar revealed he spent time in intensive care in India after being struck down with the Delta variant of COVID-19.

“I was really sick, but I was thinking about archery,” he said. “I was thinking about the fact that I had won medals at every competition but not the Olympics. At that time, I was thinking if I get one more chance, I’d do everything I could to take part in one last Olympics.”

He lost 15kg and his stamina, crucial for any archer.

“At that time, I thought I was done,” he said. “I was thinking, wow, this is going to take a long time to recover from.”

However, as the interview reveals, he used the pause to reset and reassess. It had been six years since his last Hyundai Archery World Cup medal, two years since he made the Indian team and he had missed the cut for two Olympic Games (2016, 2020) and two Asian Games (2014, 2018).

But now he is back, switching from a bow with 44lbs draw weight to just 33 after his coach since 2003, Lim Chae Woong at the TATA Shooting academy in Jamshedpur, suggested it due to a long-term shoulder injury.

“It was really strange,” said Talukdar to Sportstar about the new equipment. “That’s the sort of bow a kid uses. You can barely shoot to 10 meters accurately with it. But that’s the one I had to use. It was as if I was starting out again.”

Paris is the third consecutive Hyundai Archery World Cup stage the Indian has competed in this year after making it back on the Indian squad in March. Antalya was his first appearance on the circuit since Berlin in August 2017.

His performances at stage one in Antalya and stage two in Gwangju have highlighted the potential quality of the current world number 38, who was ranked as high as second in the world in 2006.

In Antalya, he finished fifth in the recurve men’s competition, losing to eventual silver medallist Ryan Tyack, and in Gwangju last month he faced the two joint world number ones – handing Mete Gazoz a straight-set defeat but losing to Kim Woojin in the quarterfinals. He had led Woojin a number of times before eventually succumbing in a shoot-off, the Korean’s 10 closer to the middle than his.

“I was comparing the footage of my shooting in Gwangju to how I was back in 2010 when I think I was shooting the best in my life,” said Talukdar, referring to his last Hyundai Archery World Cup stage gold medal, of which he has seven.

(He has collected a further 10 silver and five bronze medals in 36 career appearances on the circuit.)

“The only real difference is confidence. Because I’ve had so many setbacks, I’m still not as fearless as I used to be. But I’ll get that same belief back. That will also return,” he said.

Jayanta Talukdar at Antalya 2022 in qualification

That performance in Antalya was even more impressive as it was during the opening stage that Talukdar found out that his father Ranjan was extremely ill, later passing away on the archer’s return home.

“I still had another World Cup in a few days but at that time I didn’t even want to continue shooting,” he said.

“But my family reminded me just how much my archery meant to my dad. He would collect all the newspaper clippings with my name on them and would be very protective of my equipment. My family reminded me how the most important thing for my father was that I continue to shoot. When I shoot now, I shoot not just for myself but also to honour him.”

As one of the older archers on the circuit these days, Talukdar has the potential pedigree to deliver his first podium on the Hyundai Archery World Cup since 2010 – and perhaps his first individual victory since Porec in 2009.

He’s got the support of the teammates, too.

Abhishek [Verma] came up to me and said, ‘sher abhi budha nahi hua’,” said Talukdar about his Indian teammate, who gave him a special message last month in Gwangju.

The translation? “The lion isn’t old just yet.”

Competition continues in Paris this afternoon with recurve eliminations.