Top Indian archer Abhishek Verma is still confident of clinching two medals in the Asian Games, the same number he won in the last edition, despite the compound section he competed in will not have individual events this time.
The 29-year-old Verma won two medals -- one in individual and the other in team event -- Incheon Asian Games in 2014 out of India's total of four, all from the compound section. The recurve archers had returned empty-handed.
With two World Cup gold medals and one silver in World Cup Final, Verma is the top medal prospect in these Asian Games beginning August 18. These Games though will have no individual events. He will be competing in team event and a mixed pair event.
"But that (no individual events in compound archery) will be same for everyone. We have mixed pair event inducted now, so either way I stand a chance to win two medals," Verma told PTI from his training base at Sonepat. "Definitely, there will be medals in all the three sections -- men's and women's team events and mixed pair -- but it's difficult to predict the colour of medal right now. It will depend on that particular day and the conditions," he said.
India is the defending champions in the team event but Verma said: "We will not be under pressure. It's just that we will look to bag both the medals (team and mixed pair). All teams are very strong. We will look to give them competition, not the other way round.
India had returned empty-handed in the recurve section at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, a big setback from bagging three medals at Guangzhou 2010 where Tarundeep Rai had won a silver. The biggest loser has been the men's recurve team who has slipped from being world number one in 2010-11 to being number 12 now. But Verma backed the underfire recurve section and said they would also win three medals.
"They did not win any but we won four. I'm sure we will win three in compound and three in recurve in Indonesia this time. There was a time when they won all the medals, hopefully good days will be back again soon." About his role in the Indian team, he said: "I will be leading the team. I don't see any junior-senior divide. It's a team effort. As per the situation, we will decide on the order."
In an ideal scenario, Verma starts the proceedings while Rajat does the finishing but things may change, he said. "It's about making the junior comfortable, we will see what best can be done," Verma said.
The Indian team is having a 10-day coaching camp under two-time World Cup Final winner Sergio Pagni of Italy. Terming this a fruitful experience, he said: "He (Sergio Pagni) did not make any drastic changes, but giving small but really helpful tips." "Most of us know how to drive a car but not all of them can manoeuvre through tricky roads when you're getting late. It's about staying unruffled. "Anyone can shoot an arrow but it's during a pressure match your real character comes out. He gave us tips on the things we lack and miss a medal during a pressure match. It's about winning from a crunch situation, which he has taught us."
Verma further gave full credit to Sports Authority of India Center at Sonepat for improvement in the compound section. "The biggest secret is the Centre of Excellence at SAI Sonepat. We spend our entire year here. We don't go around, we stay here completely focused on shooting. Full credit goes to COE Sonepat SAI. This is the only reason why we have been doing well consistently."
Verma was mulling to switch to shooting as compound section does not figure in Olympics. "It (an Olympic medal) is not that important for me but for my country it's huge. I want to switch but will see how it goes. "My main focus is on the Asian Games now and the World Cup Final. I already have a (silver) medal in the World Cup Final. Both are equally important and want to win a medal in both of them," Verma, who has qualified for the World Cup Final for a second time, said.
The compound events are slated to begin in Jakarta from August 23 and the Indian archery contingent will leave for Indonesia on August 14. In four years since winning two medals in Incheon, Verma has become more responsible, and a proud father too. Arrival of his son Shaurya in February this year has changed his life, and Verma said: "My son has been really lucky for me. Medals keep coming from every event after Shaurya was born."