CUTTACK: Former junior taekwondo national medallist. Check. Flowerhorn cichlids (fish) connoisseur. Check. Asian Games medallist. Check. Meet Aman Saini, one of India’s brightest compound archers. On Wednesday, he helped Delhi reach the men’s team final in the 39th Senior Archery National Championships at the Barabati Stadium after a tense semifinal shoot-off against Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB).It was literally an accident that forced him to become an archer. During one of his bouts, he fractured a bone on his left arm and was bed-ridden.
Fearful of more such incidents occurring, his parents persuaded him to find a new sport.
“I was into taekwondo from Class 1. Then the injury happened when I was in the sixth standard and I had to stop. Surender Singh, who is still my coach, suggested compound archery. I thought why not and gave it a shot. My source of inspiration to continue has been Abhishek Verma. If not for him, I would never have been successful,” the 21-year-old said at the end of a hectic day.
As soon as the topic changes to his hobby of collecting fish, a smile appears. There is an eagerness in his voice to try and explain himself. “I have 44 varieties currently. I have a separate room where I keep all my fish. They are kept in separate aquariums because of their aggressive behaviour. I prepare their food myself. The best thing about them is they can remain without food for almost a month. So it is easy for me when I travel for tournaments.”
The different varieties of Flowerhorn have been imported from all over Asia, mainly Bangkok where the fish market is, in the Delhiite’s own words, ‘’amazing”. So when does he get the time to buy these? “I order one when I participate in a competition. Till date, I’ve taken part in 44 events hence the number of fish.”
He does not stop there. The most interesting thing about his hobby is that special varieties are ordered if a medal is won. He laughs before answering. “Yeah, if I win a medal, I order a more exotic breed. If I do well in the individual compound section, I’ll order something special.”And what about the fish that he ordered after clinching silver in the Asian Games? “That’s the only one which is not in my room for fish. It holds a special place in my heart so it resides in a special tank in the living room.”
Even though compound archers do not have the headache of trying to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics (compound archery is not an Olympic sport), this is a crucial year nonetheless as World and Asian Championships are both scheduled for June and November respectively.“We will have further selection trials after the nationals. I really want to make the team and win a Worlds medal. As far as preparation is concerned, I’m trying to improve constantly. Abhishek is always trying to help and motivate. I have started cardio as too much weight training does not allow you to extend your arm.”
Even before the Worlds test, there is another huge examination coming up: his final year of graduation. “I’m not that great in studies but I know a degree is very important. Post my studies, I’m hoping I will get the job promised by the Delhi government so that I can keep focussing on my game,” the student of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College signed off.
Heat & water woes
The heat — temperature touched 400c — proved too much for one of the judges, who received first aid after fainting. “It is impossible to work in such extreme heat. We also need to complete each section in two days so there is added pressure on us,” one of the judges said. To top it off, water bottles were also in short supply. Archers had to run and buy bottles while their teammates were shooting.