Asian Games: Ojas-Jyothi turn arrows into gold in near-perfect final

The Indian compound archery champions follow a simple process: Jyothi Surekha Vennam and Ojas Deotale step up to the shooting line, adjust their bow, sight the target, release the arrow, hit the centre of the rings, step back, high-five their coach Sergio Pagni and partner… and win gold.

This process of theirs is a matter of routine, a ritual of sorts, the archers working on muscle memory. It looks like simple, it’s anything but. Otherwise, everyone would win mixed team gold in the Asian Games, like Jyothi and Ojas did on Wednesday, when they won it by just one point; by one arrow in the final end.

A day ago, the duo had had claimed their places in the individual final on a dominant day for Indian compound archery, and they were back on the range less than 24 hours later nailing perfect ten after perfect ten.

There is a preconceived notion that compound archery is not as strenuous because it has a more mechanical bow – there are levers and pulleys, a magnified sighter and a release aid. It’s much easier to get the perfect shot. But even with the help of the machine, the bow has to be drawn and sent into the tiny circle for the perfect shot, every single arrow, under pressure and in the wind. One arrow can be make or break, one arrow on the outer edge of the inner circle can be the difference between a win and a loss.

And they were near-perfect throughout:

  • Quarterfinal against Malaysia – won 158 – 155

  • Semifinal against Kazakhstan – won 159-154

  • Final against South Korea – won 159-158

The Indians’ numbers didn’t vary, dominated by perfect 10s and the ever-present Pagni looking on. The final was against South Korea’s So Chaewon and Joo Jaehoon; the archer Jyothi will face in the final and the archer Abhishek Verma beat in the semis; players in good touch themselves.

But it was the Indians who had the perfect start, going 80 out 80 shots, leading by one point after an early 9 from Korea gave them the advantage. Then came the plot twist – a first 9 from Ojas, who had shot a 150 out 150 in the quarters and semis just yesterday.

But Jyothi hit the target and the final was level at 99 after 100 arrows.

The pressure was on now as the Koreans delivered perfect 10s and things were level at 119 before the final end. Now, South Korean compound legacy isn’t as rich as recurve, but they have been working on it. They’ve brought in their first international coach ever in Reo Wilde to enhance their chances in compound. Besides, the Indians are the favourites, the world champions and the in-form pair.

Under pressure, though, the South Koreans wilted; and So shot a 9, giving India a small opening. The onus was now on India, and Ojas and Jyothi both found their marks perfectly a to get to 159 – the one-point lead restored and the first gold medal in the bag.

This was an important gold medal, the first of the lot they hope to win in Hangzhou so that they can find more support and backing in India. As a non-Olympic discipline, compound archery does not get the same financial support as recurve and Jyothi is keen on changing that. She has started right, with the spotlight of a multi-sport event giving them the perfect platform to make a case for their sport

In the coming days, they will likely add to this with finals in men’s, women’s team and individual events. For now, it’s a perfect start for Indian compound archery.

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