By Anuj MishraNew Delhi [India], May 7 (ANI): Nearly nine years after he failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, a mentally stronger and more skilled Atanu Das will be eyeing to make a mark and go two steps further in clinching a medal in archery in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics slated to be held later this year.
Atanu recently won the recurve men's individual gold medal to cap an incredible first stage of the 2021 Archery World Cup in Guatemala City in April. Atanu defeated Spain's Daniel Castro in the latter's international circuit debut.
In an interaction with ANI, Atanu, who has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent years, opened up about how he honed his skills during the first lockdown when sporting action was put to a grinding halt, his dream of winning a medal in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and how he felt when the showpiece event was postponed last year.
"When the first lockdown happened, I was fully prepared for the Olympics and I was ready for the tournament. For the initial days, I felt bad and when Olympics got postponed, I left shooting for some time and went back home to be with family which eventually helped me remain in a positive frame of mind," Atanu said.
"To be in that mental space, I did yoga, meditation and when I realised it (pandemic) isn't going to end soon, I started working on my core abilities and a little bit of shooting too. But wasn't able to train like we need to do to prepare for any competition.
"I felt that I took a rest of three-four days (Not six months). This is how the mind plays with you, however, my body did ache a little bit as I was out of touch. But since I was mentally very active it did not feel like there was a long gap during the lockdown last year," the Indian archer added.
One of India's finest archers, Atanu admitted that winning the gold in the first stage of the Archery World Cup in April was a tedious task considering the long break he was forced to take due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But all his nervousness and anxiety took a back seat when he shot sets of 28, 29, and closed an excellent 30 points in a four-set victory to clinch a gold in the World Cup.
"There was a one and half year break, between this tournament and our Asian Championship due to the coronavirus pandemic. So it was quite difficult to start with a good performance but it was also necessary considering the Olympics and World Championship this year," an elated Atanu said.
"To be honest, at the start of the tournament I was nervous as I was preparing but if you don't compete you would never know where your preparation lies. So this was a big challenge for me and I was working on it mentally rather than focusing on my technical skills," he stressed.
Atanu is one of few Indian athletes who has received his final shot of coronavirus vaccine, but the archer doesn't want to be casual in any way looking at how the second wave of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the country,"Back of my mind, I am satisfied that I have taken the double dose of the COVID-19 vaccine because that is the biggest thing right now. Social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask these all have become a part and parcel of life, and having taken the vaccine I don't want to loosen up now," said Atanu.
In 2012, Atanu failed to qualify for the London Olympics and though he did feature in 2016 in the quadrennial event, the Indian archer missed out on a medal after bowing out from the tournament.
Atanu has now refurbished himself and is raring to go for a medal in the Tokyo Olympics. The Indian archer vows to not repeat the same mistakes he did last time in the showpiece event.
"I have changed myself a lot since the last Olympics, I have upgraded my skills in the last five years. And I am working on honing my skills on a regular basis and I will keep on doing that till the Olympics," Atanu said.
"I have it my mind (unfinished business) that I have to come out victorious. But things are not as easy as it seems to be, you have to bridge the gap mentally and physically. I won't replicate the mistakes I did in the 2016 Olympics, I will give my best in the 2020 Olympics," he added.
Having qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and made use of the last year's hiatus, the Indian archer wants to hit the shots he had always aimed for in the megaevent.
"It depends on person to person, like how he has used this one year for his preparation. I feel I have perfectly handled the last year. I am already in the flow and I am working on the mistakes I did this World Cup so that I can come out with flying colors, hitting the shots that I had always wished for," Atanu signed off. (ANI)