CHENNAI: The last month saw people glued to the TV while a young man wearing a snazzy pair of glasses continued to hit the bullseye with alarming regularity in Rio. The performance of Atanu Das caught the interest of the general public.
The archer may have bowed out in the quarterfinals, but he feels his biggest achievement was helping his sport enter the public psyche. “Obviously, I was disappointed with the loss but I was pleasantly surprised with the reception I got. So many people started following the sport. This will ultimately help the game grow,” he told Express.
The Calcutta Archery Club, where the 24-year-old learnt his trade in the initial years, had a festive atmosphere during the Olympics. “Students, teachers and staff gathered at the club to watch Atanu live instead of practising,” club secretary Sanjeev Kumar Dey said.
“After Atanu’s performance, the club’s Facebook page was flooded with requests. Even outstation people contacted them regarding admission and equipment. People have suddenly realised archery has a future and they have started embracing it,” Sanjeev added.
Despite his impressive performance, the trial controversy surrounding Mangal Singh Champia weighed heavily on his mind prior to the Games. “People blew the incident out of proportions. Everybody knew the law. Trials were a part of the rule one year prior. I won it fair and square. My performance has vindicated my belief in my ability.”
Not many know this, but Das had recorded the highest score by any Indian on the international stage (rankings round and knockouts). “In one of the functions, former president of the Archery Association of India, Pareshnath Mukherjee, broke the news to me. It shows I’m on the right track.”
Das, who is without a coach since 2013, feels the freedom has helped him succeed. “I like training on my own. When I need help, I approach people I trained with. Like Chungda Sherpa earlier this year. I also go on personalised trips to Korea for training.”
According to Sanjeev, Das always wanted to stick with first coach Shantanu Dey as his personal trainer. But personal problems did not let his wish materialise. “Mithu da, as he is called by his students, used to watch all of Atanu’s duels.”
With celebrities taking potshots at those who failed in Rio, it was a tough period. “People should realise athletes have one dream, glory for the country,” Das, a BPCL employee, said.
With the sport gaining in popularity, Das feels making the sport more accessible is the way forward. “Equipment costs a lot. Clubs with help from corporates should ensure basic facilities are available. Instead of starting exposure trips six months prior to events, there should be trips throughout.”
With no events lined up, Das plans to work on physical fitness. “Once we compete internationally, we see how much of a factor fitness is. Competitions will start when the 2017 World Cup circuit gets underway,” he signed off.