Archery, like any other sport, requires a great deal of mental strength apart from physical fitness. Despite this, the Archery Association of India never felt the need to provide the national archery team with a mental conditioning coach, lamented senior archer Jayanta Talukdar at an informal gathering where Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) extended their support to him and former World No 1 archer Deepika Kumari. In a freewheeling chat, former World No 2 Talukdar speaks about the sport and beyond.
Excerpts from an interview:
India’s performance at the London Olympics was below par. What, in your opinion, went wrong?
We weren’t mentally prepared for the Olympics. We practiced in Kolkata where the temperatures were hot and humid. When we landed in London, it was cold and windy. Just a day after reaching there, the entire men’s team and Deepika contracted fever. Our body was so weak that the bow felt heavier. Also, the pressure weighed down on us. That’s the time I feel that a psychologist could have made a difference.
Is mental conditioning the Indian team’s Achilles heel?
Mental conditioning is one aspect where we need to train hard. Before the London Olympics, we asked the association to provide a psychologist, but that plea fell on deaf ears. So, we stopped expecting anything from them. In London, Lords was full of spectators and the wind was blowing in a circular direction. We had never witnessed or practiced in front of a huge crowd. The reason why Koreans did as well as they did was because they had come prepared. We did nothing; I was participating in the Olympics but my preparations were like those for a national tournament. So how can somebody win a medal? We need a coach, trainer and mental conditioning coach to get results.
Deepika missed out on a medal at the Olympics? What do you think was the reason?
I feel that she underperformed because of immense pressure. She was confused and couldn’t get the right judgement of the wind there. Also, being the World No 1 at such a young age she wasn’t that confident. If you see the medal winners they are either in the late 20’s or early 30’s. Archers are like wine, they get better with age.
Your short-term and long-term goals…
My short-term goal is to perform well in the upcoming World Cup (stage 2) from June 10-16 in Antalya, Turkey. Later, I want to win an individual medal in next year’s Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. But my ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal.
Recently, cricket’s image was tarnished by the spot fixing scandal. Do you think that the stakeholders such as sponsors and media should shift their focus on other sports?
Definitely. I think that cricket is not a sport anymore, but it’s become more of a reality show. Cricket is not an Olympic sport so why are we giving it so much importance! How many countries play the sport? 10 or 12. But in archery events, more than 40 countries participate. Every sport body has some politicians and that is not good for any sport.
What are your expectations from OGQ?
OGQ already supports Rahul Banerjee and Tarundeep Rai and ascertains that they get the best facilities. They don’t have to worry about either international exposure or specific coaching. Before being signed by the OGQ, we used to request the federations to send us abroad, but citing financial restrictions the government never sent us anywhere.
What do you do in your spare time? And what’s the one thing you miss when you are abroad?
I am a complete movie buff. I am huge Salman Khan fan and Deepika Padukone is my favourite Bollywood actress. When I am bored, I sing loudly. I am a very good bathroom singer. After a long schedule, I look forward to ‘Maa ke haath ka khaana’ — chicken/prawn curry. I look forward the poori and aloo bhaaji breakfast that we are deprived of at the national camps.