SIX YEARS ago, when Haryana player Harvinder Singh started archery on the insistence of coach Jiwanjot Singh Teja, the native of Ajitnagar village in Kaithal district struggled with the right standing position. Suffering from a disability in his left leg since his childhood due to a wrong injection given by a local doctor, Singh would take his time to adjust to the right posture. On Wednesday, as Singh became the first Indian archer to win a medal by winning the recurve gold medal in W2/S2 category in the Para Asian Games in Indonesia, it was a time to remember all those training sessions for the 27-year-old athlete.
“I was 18 months old when I was given a wrong injection by a local doctor after suffering from high fever, It meant that the muscles in my left leg remained weak and made me suffer from limited impairment. While studying at Panjabi University, Patiala, I would follow archery on television during the London Olympics and I approached coach Jiwanjot Singh to pursue the sport. The standing position in archery requires a lot of balance and I would take all the weight on my right leg in an effort to support the position. After winning the gold medal today, I was reminded of all those training sessions and I hope this medal is a new beginning for para archers in India,” shared Singh, who defeated China’s Zhao Lixue 6-0 in the final.
While Singh initially competed in the compound event which also see him winning two medals in the Indian round competition in the nationals in Maharashtra, Singh’s inability to win a medal in nationals for three years meant that he decided to leave the sport. It was also the time when Singh had to ask for Rs one lakh from his farmer father Paramjeet Singh for buying a used compound bow from 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist Abhishek Verma. After staying away from the sport for more than one year, Singh returned to the sport once again with coach Jiwanjot asking him to concentrate on the recurve event. Singh won two bronze medals in the para nationals in Rohtak in 2016 followed by a silver medal in nationals in 2017.
Last year also saw Singh finishing seventh in the recurve event in the World Para Archery Championships in China. This year, Singh finished ninth in the World Ranking Archery Championship in Czech Republic before qualifying for the Asian Para Games. But the 27-year-old suffered a setback a he lost his mother Harbhajan Kaur last month. “Losing my mother was a huge setback for me. My mother always wanted me to see me win an international medal and today’s medal is for my mother. It also meant that I missed the training for 10 days. But I resumed training and focussed on winning the medal. The seventh-place finish in World Para Archery Championships in China also boosted my confidence and competing in Europe helped my game,” said Singh.
Former national coach and Punjabi University head coach Jiwanjot Singh Teja rates Harvinder highly. “Unlike other sports, competing in recurve archery means that more than 60 per cent of body weight falls on the left leg while shooting. Harvinder’s strength has been his mental strength in the last three years and the way he has managed to make his weak point his strongest point speaks of his talent. The fact that he is also doing his PhD in a subject like Economics means that he is mentally very alert and focussed. This is India’s first medal in Archery in any Para international event and it will motivate a lot of youngsters from Haryana and Punjab,” said Teja.