Kolkata: Top Indian archer Atanu Das rued the absence of a psychologist in Tokyo and said it could have made all the difference as they returned empty-handed from the Olympics yet again.
The four Indian archers were accompanied by chief coach Lim Bahadur Gurung and a physio to Tokyo, while their full time psychologist Mugdha Bavare, who had travelled with them during their successful campaigns in the two World Cups this year, was excluded.
Das had won an individual gold medal at the first stage of the World Cup in Guatemala City in April. His wife Deepika, on the other hand, was in the form of her life winning five gold medals from two World Cups earlier this year to go to Tokyo with a world number one ranking.
“She (Mugdha) accompanied us in every tournament, except the Olympics. I think it could have been arranged. We used to interact with her over phone but that was not enough,” Das told PTI in an interview after their return.
The highlight of Indian archers’ otherwise dismal campaign at the Olympics was Das’ shootoff win over Korea’s Oh Jin Hyek to knock out the former Olympic and world champion from last-32.
Returning to action after a day’s break, Das, however, could not take the “pressure of the Olympics” and faltered against local favourite Takaharu Furukawa to make a second successive pre-quarterfinal exit from the Games.
“I think if there was a psychologist maybe I could have dealt with the pressure well. It could have made all the difference,” he said, pointing out that champion teams like Korea “always travels with 10 support staff including a psychologist”.
“We all know the Olympics is the biggest event, so somehow pressure gets into you. Maybe, I took the match more seriously the other day.
“I think I made some judgmental mistakes in the first set (shooting two 8s). I could have won the last round also but could not find the rhythm,” said Das, who was edged out by the five-time Olympian by just one point in the fifth set to seal a tight win.
It was the same story for the Indians in the team events as both the men’s trio and the mixed pair duo choked under pressure from the Koreans in their respective quarterfinals.
In the ranking round on their first day, Das had slipped behind rookie Pravin Jadhav, misfiring a 5 in the penultimate round, to lose his place in the mixed team.
Das and Jadhav were tied 329-all at the halfway mark of 36 arrows in the ranking before he slipped.
“Maybe I took a bit more pressure on me with an eye to top among us. It was a bad day for us. I was really struggling that day.
“I could take charge of myself during the matchplay but I really struggled during the ranking round. Maybe this would not have happened if we had a psychologist. It was a big setback for us,” he said.
Das once again reiterated that he and his wife could have won a medal together and it was “unfair” to ignore him for the mixed team event on the basis of just one ranking round.
“We have been shooting consistently well together since the 2019 Asian Championships in Bangkok. But to judge someone on the basis of one poor ranking round score was unfair,” the 29-year-old said.
The duo, who were the first Indian couple to take part in the same discipline at an Olympics, were coming off a gold medal win at the Paris World Cup and a bronze in the Asian Championships in 2019.
The team think-tank had an option to stick to Das and Deepika but they went by the rulebook of picking the top-ranked finishers for the mixed pair event which was seen as India’s stronghold.
“Anyone can have a bad day. They did not discuss it with us at all. It’s extremely disappointing. We could have won a medal together, of any colour maybe,” he said.
It’s a new start for the Indian archers who are currently in Sonepat to shoot in the selection trials for the next month’s World Championships.
The trials had to be advanced to meet the USA Visa guidelines as they did not get any break after returning from the hectic Olympics campaign.
Refusing to comment on the hectic scheduling, he said: “It’s been happening like this always. I’ve no comments.
“We have to start afresh and take it from here. We will learn from the mistakes and take it forward from here. We have age on our side and we will fight again,” he concluded.