Archery: Dhiraj blocks out negatives, locks in Paris Olympic quota
Turning to his quota-defining Olympic day in Bangkok on Saturday, archer Dhiraj Bommadevara had recurring flashes of the Asian Games.
A little over a month ago in Hangzhou, Dhiraj was leading in the singles quarter-finals before a technical and mental failure led to his arrow heading towards the outer edges of the board. With that happening not once but twice, it struck out among the most embarrassing ways when the stakes were raised.
As Dhiraj entered his quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Asian Continental Qualifying Tournament (CQT) on Saturday at the Paris 2024 Olympics quota weight, the 22-year-old was determined not to repeat his mistakes. “The Asian Games came to my mind again. But I managed to block him,” said Dhiraj.
Dhiraj also managed to book an Olympic quota for India, a first in the tournament, by entering the Asian CQT final. He then lost to China’s Lin Zih-Siang 5-6 in the football final (29-28, 27-29, 28-28, 30-28, 25-26 and 9-10), but went on to beat the Iranians Sadegh Ashrafi Bavili 6-0 in the fourth and Mohammad Hossein Golshani 6-0 in the semi-finals, Dhiraj secured one place for India in Paris.
The Asian Championships, which preceded this two-day individual qualifying event that had quotas for the finalists, also offered places in Paris. The resurgent Indian men’s team lost the quarter-final against Kazakhstan by a single point. That Indian archery did not return empty handed in terms of quotas from Bangkok which pleased Dhiraj the most.
“I am very happy that I have sealed this quota for the country,” said Dhiraj from Bangkok. “It was a long wait. We could not get the quota at the World Championships, Asian Games and Asian Championships. This was the last chance to qualify this year, toh pura jaan laga diya (I gave mine today).
For the archer from Vijayawada who had been through some struggles and was considering a switch to academics, the Asian Games experience – an individual event aside, being part of the men’s rebounding team – was another testament to his mettle. who won the money. From fighting in the sea of negativity afterwards to picking himself up and earning the quota in a month, the turnaround has been fast.
“At that point, with what happened to me, I thought, ‘archery nahi khelunga (I’ll stop archery)’. It was a tough time for me, I was very mentally stressed. People’s comments hurt me, and they were also right that this should not have happened on such a scale,” said Dhiraj.
“But returning home, the archery family supported me – from the federation to coaches. They understood how this could happen to anyone. That helped me bounce back early. I thought the worst was behind me.”
Dhiraj, who won an individual bronze medal at Stage 1 of the World Cup in Antalya in April besides three team medals, has been India’s most consistent recurve archer in a down year for the discipline. Dhiraj was keen to seal the Olympic quota this year as the only Indian archer to return to the World Cup Finals in Hermosillo, Mexico in September.
“I’m happy with the consistency I’ve shown this year, but I was the clearest person I could deliver when it was needed the most. Other than that, the benefit would be to be consistent,” he said.
Confident that the men’s team will also get a ticket to Paris next year through their world ranking, Dhiraj will return to training for the next few months.
“We will have our Olympic trials in January, and then the World Cup where we (team) will have to maintain our performances and our ranking,” he said. “This quota is only the first step towards an Olympic medal. Hopefully this will be the start of a new journey for me.”
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