A saga of dedication
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Vikram Sharma
Abhishek Verma was in class eight when he decided to take up some sporting activity. One morning, the student of Government School in Model Town, Delhi, walked up to his PT teacher and sought his advice on which sport he should take up.
"Enroll in archery," his teacher casually told Abhishek.
Days later, when a young Abhishek got a feel of a wooden bow and shot an arrow for the first time in his life — he fell in love with the sport instantly. Over the years, he trained hard and sharpened his archery skills. It changed his life forever.
"Archery changes one’s personality for the better. It makes you calm and focussed. The sport demands focus, dedication and consistency," smiles Abhishek Verma, India’s ace archer and Arjuna awardee, as he settles down for an interview.
The World Cup gold medallist has just returned from Tashkent, where he led a 16-member contingent of archers for the Asia Cup 2023. "We won a total of 14 medals in the compound and recurve events," informs the beaming archer, who has brought laurels to India in the field of archery, consistently for the past one decade. He is presently training for the Asian Games to be held in China in October this year.
While Abhishek’s Asia and India rank stand at No.1, his current world ranking is No.10.
A towering figure in Indian Compound archery, Abhishek’s day begins at the crack of dawn. "I indulge in some form of physical activity from 6 am to 7 am, after which begins archery practice which goes on till 11 am," informs the ace archer. Practice, he says, is the key in the sport. "My practice sessions stretch anywhere between 8 to 10 hours," says the 34 year old. His evening training session starts at 3 pm which continues till 7 pm. Post that, it s gym time.
"Practice sessions have become part and parcel of my everyday life. It has been like that ince my early days and the same continues even now," says the father of two. It leaves him with little or no family time but he does manage to take out sometime for family. He trains at the National Centre of Excellence (NCOE), Sonepat or at Yamuna Sports Complex, Delhi.
By 2005, the Delhi boy became a national champion and the following year, he started practicing at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) stadium in Delhi.
"I began participating in world championships from 2011 onwards and that’s when my real journey started," informs the archer, who represented India in five Asian championships held across the globe and won 12 medals.
"Back then, the compound model was new in India and I had to work very hard to get it right," says Abhishek, who not only took the help of some of his coaches, but learnt the nuances of the game by watching international players on the internet. Thereafter, there was nothing stopping him. He was won a gold medal in the compound men’s individual section at the Archery World Cup Stage 3 in Wroclaw, Poland in August 2015. The same year, in October, he won the silver medal in the compound men’s individual section at the Archery World Cup Final in Mexico City.
"When it came to my academics, I was an average student. Throughout my journey, my parents were very supportive," says the Delhi born archer, who teamed up with fellow archer Jyothi Surekha Vennam and won gold medal in compound mixed team event in Archery World Cup held at Paris, France in 2022. In November 2021, he won the bronze medal in the men’s compound archery team at the 22nd Asian Archery Championship in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Professional archers often encounter bad weather during tournaments and Abhishek is no different. Recalling one such moment during the 2014 Asian Games held in South Korea, when strong winds began playing a spoilsport as he was all set to shoot, he says it was his training that saw him through. "I just maintained my calm and remained focused on the game.
During training, we are taught all the nuances required to perform in rough weather conditions. I just went out there and performed," informs the archer, who returned to India with a gold in the men’s compound archery team and silver in the men’s individual compound event.
Abhishek says he never bothers or even thinks about winning medals in tournaments. "In tournaments, I don’t see other players as my opponents, I am my own competition and believe in giving my best shot," smiles Abhishek.
Archery is an expensive and technical game, feels Abhishek. After all, the bows used in international tournaments cost Rs 4 lakh upwards while one arrow cost around Rs 5,000. "Not all players can afford the costly equipment. But the government is doing its bit to help the budding sportspersons," says Abhishek, who wants open an academy and train young players to become successful archers in future.