It is the final. India’s Abhishek Verma and Korea’s Kim Jongho are ready to let loose their arrows in the shoot-off. Kim goes first and he shoots a 10. Now, to win, Abhishek needs to hit the bullseye; to get even closer to the centre than the Korean.
It is windy too, raising the difficulty level even more but he manages to do just that to be crowned the Asian Champion for the third consecutive time. The Asian Championships happened in November 2017.
Now, just nine months later, Verma would have had a sense of deja vu as he went into the shoot-off against the Korean team in the Men’s Compound Archery team final at the Asian Games on Tuesday.
But first came the drama.
For a few minutes, it seemed as if India had won the final, 229-227 but even as the Indian team broke into big smiles and the Koreans into tears, the scores were revised to 229-229. Once again, a shootout was in order and when the scores were equal after that too, a ‘tie breaker’ was introduced and Korea won the gold medal by the narrowest of margins.
Verma had spoken to Scroll.in just before the Asian Games and he had recalled that performances in the Asian Championships.
“Now, the competition is not to hit 10. We have long moved on from that. At the Asian Championships, I was competing against a Korean — Kim Jongho. We both hit 147 out of 150. Only three 9s in the entire match. He hit a 10 with his last shot and to win I needed to hit the target within the target — and get an ‘x’… the bullseye. It was windy but I managed to do that,” he had said.
Still, it is perhaps fair to say that the Indians had to find their focus again after the scores were revised. And that could not have been easy.
“The most important thing is self belief – in yourself and in your equipment. When the margins are so slim, you cannot have a negative thought. The moment you have a negative thought, you will lose. That basically describes my mental make-up. You have believe that you can do it,” Verma further added.
“There are 150 people in the tournament, four from team, only one team wins but if you lose, everyone calls you a loser. But really is it right to call anyone that?
In the last Asian Games, Verma had won a gold and a silver medal and he was keen to make it two golds this time round. The experienced Rajat Chauhan and Aman Saina had played their part in helping the Indian team make it to the final. They were looking good, they were relaxed, smiling and laughing their way past opponents. It spoke of confidence. It also spoke of immense belief in their ability.
After End 1, India were leading 60-56. Their scores were 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. As perfect as they could get. However, by the time the second End finished, Korea had caught up. The score now read 114-114. It eventually came down to this: Korea (before the scores were revised) ended up with 227. India needed to shoot 227 to win, they shot 29.
And then, post the revision, they needed to find their focus again. In Recurve, the radius of 10 is bigger as compared to Compound and the poundage of the Compound bows is higher too. Essentially, it gets more difficult as the pressure increases and nerves come into play.
“You need to understand the mechanics, the wind, and mostly importantly, it is a trigger game. so you need to have good control over the nerves [so that you don’t click by mistake] and keep the focus,” Verma had said.
On Tuesday, India probably did all of that and still failed to bring home the gold. It only goes to show the level of excellence demanded from an archer is very, very high indeed. Perhaps even Arjuna might not have found the going easy.