Abhishek Verma turned 25 on Wednesday,but his birthday gift had already arrived a few days earlier. On Sunday he had won silver in the compound archery event at the third National Ranking archery tournament. The medal was the latest in what has been a good year for the Model Town-based archer. He had earlier won gold in the National games in Ranchi and in March had won gold in the team event at the Asian GP in Bangkok. Verma has a chance to add a few more medals when he heads to the Archery World Cup in Columbia,USA,in a couple of weeks.
Verma’s tryst with archery began as class 8 student at the No.1 Govt Boys Senior Secondary School in Model town in 2004. Initially,he started shooting with the Indian bow but was proficient enough to win the national sub-junior boys’ title in his first year of competition. Coaches backed him to compete internationally. But that meant that he had to drop the traditional bamboo and switch to either the recurve or the compound bow.
Recurve was the more popular option. Compound bows,with their complex combinations of flywheels,cables and pulleys,had only been introduced at the Archery World Championships 10 years earlier and were hardly known in India. They didn’t feature in the Olympics either,and that also lessened their popularity. Verma,however,was curious.””I was always reading about the sport and when I first learned about compund it seemed like an interesting sport. When the time came for me to buy an advanced bow,I decided to pick up a compound bow”” he said.
The bow wasn’t even available in India then . After learning that a Delhi coach was travelling with the Indian team to a competition in Spain,Verma had him buy his first compound bow. But a bow in his hands was only the first of his problems.””Because then,and to a lesser extent now,we didn’t have a specialised coach for compound bow. With recurve you know that if you have a bow of a certain draw strength you need to shoot a certain type of arrow to get the best result. But with compound we had to figure out all of that for ourselves. Also with some bow models,adjusting draw length requires replacing cams or other parts along with a bow press to do so. So a lot of adjusting has to be done before you get exactly what you need”” he says. ”
“A lot of that information we got on the internet and at other times when we went to international tournaments we would learn from foreign teams who would help out. But most of the time we would have to learn on the shooting range by practicing with a number of different arrow”,” he says.
Even as he was learning,Verma kept winning. In 2006,he won silver in the junior team event at the junior Asian GP and won gold in the individual event a year later. Nationally,he has won five university championships in a row.
Verma however has had his share of misfortune as well. While compound bows allow for more accuracy,the number of small moving parts means the chance of failure always exists. Verma has gone through five cracked bows.
“My first bow cracked during my first junior World Cup in 2006 during the transit. Luckily it happened before the competition so our team bought another won from a stall at the venu”,” he says.
But Verma recalls a time when the failure happened at the worst possible moment” “At the end of the practice session just minutes before our team quarterfinal against USA at the World Cup in Antalaya,Turkey,last year,I found that one of my pulleys had cracke”,” he says.
With no time to get a new bow,Verma had to use one belonging to his teammate,who was also shooting” “It was a major disadvantage because every archer has very particular preferences. But still we had a very close game before we ultimately lost 233-23″,” he says. The score even in defeat was the highest the Indian team had shot.” “Even though we lost,we got a lot of confidence and also a lot of praise because against one of the strongest teams in the world with one bow less,we had given a very good good performanc”,” he says.
Verma says the confidence gained was what had helped the Indian team’s performances since,culminating in the gold at the Asian GP in March.
Despite his success,Verma isn’t sure how much longer he plans to continue archery” “I am already 25 and it is time I got a job. But I haven’t been able to. Railways doesn’t have any openings and even when they do they prefer recurve archers. I have gone through the procedures for the Income Tax department but I haven’t received any word from them. I think I will stick with the sport for another year but maybe after that it will be time for me to do a regular jo”,” he says.