Armed with a positive mindset and a brand new bow set, experienced compound archer Abhishek Verma stamped his class on his return to the World Cup by securing his third individual gold medal in Medellin, Colombia. The fact that Verma, who has been representing the country in international events since 2013, bounced back at the right time augurs well for India ahead of the Berlin World championships and the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Verma worked on improving his game after missing out on a berth in the elite Indian squad for the first two stages of the World Cup. “Ups and downs are part of a sportsperson’s career. I remained composed and continued to focus on my performances. And I got good results in the National championships, National Ranking Archery Tournament and an Asia Cup Stage,” said Verma.
“I fully upgraded my equipment after the selection trials in March. My aim was to start again from zero. So I bought new equipment. It took me a week to get used to it and I started performing well. I will continue with this set up to the World championships and then go for another one for the Asian Games.”
Although some archers prefer sticking to their old equipment, 34-year-old Verma thinks differently. “I don’t know what resulted in my low scorers at that time. So, I thought of starting afresh. When you start shooting with a new bow, you perform with a new mindset. The bow was of exact poundage (60 pounds) and I spent around Rs 4.5 lakh for it. It gave me new-found confidence. It’s like wearing a new shirt, you feel good. When you wash it a few times, it’s not the same any more,” said Verma.
The Arjuna award-winning Delhi archer feels his individual World Cup gold medal, apart from a men’s team bronze with Prathamesh Jawkar and Ojas Deotale in Colombia, was not just a confidence booster for him but for the entire Indian side. “When you are approaching the World championships, such performances underline Indian archers’ capability. Our rivals will feel that Indians are really good (and there will be pressure on them).”
The icing on the cake for Verma, who collected 707 points to place eighth in the ranking round and got high scores (including an identical 148 out of a maximum of 150 in quarterfinals, semifinals, and final) in the elimination phase, was his consistency. That was the reason that he beat World No. 1 Mike Schloesser of Netherlands (148-148, 10*-10, hit closer to the centre in the shoot-off) in the last-eight and No. 2 James Lutz of the USA (148-146) in the title clash to claim the World Cup stage gold. Earlier, he won two individual golds in 2015 and 2021.
“At the highest level, everybody can score a 10. But, it’s important who scores a 10 under pressure. It’s all about handling pressure. Lutz scored a perfect 150 in the semifinals, but in the final against me, he hit an eight and managed 146.
“When you shoot for a long time and achieve a number of podium finishes, you know that you are not doing it for the first time. I have won 55 international medals, so I know what to expect. For a newer guy, the pressure may work differently. It’s also possible for an experienced archer to become over-confident, but it depends on your thinking process. I just forget about my last performance and focus on the present.”
Referring to his fine track record against former World champion Schloesser, Verma said, “I have beaten him thrice and every time it was through a tie-breaker!”
Indian compound archers, including Jawkar who won the World Cup Stage-2 gold, have done well this season and Verma feels the collective show will help the country in bigger events. “It’s good that so many talented archers are coming up. It is nice to send a team of achievers, who have recorded world-class scores, to an elite event like the World championships.
“When we (my contemporaries and I) started, there was nothing. Now, the youngsters have the advantage of having a foundation. They can seek guidance from us; they have got good knowledge about equipment. Because of the presence of so many good archers, they are exposed to world-class competition at home even before going to an international event,” said Verma, who has built a good rapport with the younger generation.
Ask him about his personal target for the upcoming big-ticket events, Verma —who bagged a team silver (2021) in the World championships, a mixed team bronze (India’s lone medal in the event, 2022) in the World Games and a team gold (2014) and team (2018) and individual (2014) silver medals in the Asian Games — said, “I want to perform well.”
He thinks Indian compound archers have “a better chance” of winning medals in the Asian Games and can get a “good result” in the tougher World championships.
The Indian archers will have a 15-day camp in Germany ahead of the World championships, scheduled from July 31 to August 6. They will compete in World Cup Stage-4 in Paris from August 15 to 20 and in the Asian Games from October 2 to 8. Meanwhile, those who would qualify for the World Cup Final stage in Hermosillo, Mexico, will participate there on September 9 and 10.