Jyothi Surekha Vennam-Abhishek Verma created a slice of history for Indian sport, winning the country’s first-ever archery medal at the World Games, winning bronze in the mixed team compound event at the tournament’s 2022 edition in Birmingham, USA, on Saturday.

This is India’s fifth medal ever at the World Games.

The World Games – considered the Olympic Games for non-Olympic sports – are being held in Alabama, USA. Compound archery is not part of the Olympic Games as things stand.

Jyothi and Abhishek scored a 157-156 win in the bronze medal playoff against Mexico. They were the top seeds in the event after qualification rounds, but had lost in the semifinal against Colombia, who would go on to win gold medal. India had defeated New Zealand in the first round.

In a match of very fine margins, Jyothi and Abhishek started with a perfect 40 to take a one-point lead but shot a 38 next end while Mexico’s Andrea Becerra and Miguel Becerra shot 39 and 39 to keep things level after eight arrows.

The third end saw India take a one-point lead. And with all four archers registering perfect scores in the final end, that proved to be the turning point.

In the individual event, Abhishek Verma finished a heartbreaking fourth after defeats in the semifinal and bronze medal playoff.

He had stormed into the men’s compound archery semifinals by stunning world No 1 and former world champion Mike Schloesser in the quarterfinal.

But on the day of medal rounds, the veteran Indian archer couldn’t find his best rhythm. In the semifinal, he lost 141-143 against Jean Philippe Boulch of France. In the bronze medal match, he was up against Christopher Perkins and he trailed by a point till the final set of arrows. But in the final end, he lost his rhythm once again, and the Canadian won 148-145.

With four members in the Indian archery contingent, they were in with a shot for two medals and came close to winning both. Jyothi had lost in the quarterfinals to Toja Ellison.

“The first medal is always very special,” she was quoted as saying by World Archery. “We are very happy. It was a tied match and we did not know who would win until the last arrow. We just focused to shoot our best.”

For Abhishek, the highs of a win over the world No 1 were brought down by two disappointing matches in the individual event. But he managed to bounce back with Jyothi.

“Finally I have a medal,” he said. “Today was a bad day for me. You could see I was not shooting well, but we did it in the mixed team. I am happy that I will not go home without a medal.”

More to follow...