Who are Ojas and Aditi, the world archery sensations from India?
The duo of world champions and Asian Games gold medallists hogged limelight in Kolkata at the Indian Open indoors
The names of Ojas Pravin Deotale and Aditi Gopichand Swami may not ring a bell immediately with the Indian sports buff, but wait till you hear more of them. Both are reigning world champion compound archers and gold medallists in the last Asian Games – instrumental in India landing a historic seven-medal haul at Hangzhou.
Much as Ojas, 21, and the 17-year-old Aditi wear their achievers’ tag lightly on their sleeves, the spotlight was trained on them at the three-day Indian Open indoor archery tournament which concluded in the city on Sunday. The last six months or so had seen them ride the crest of a wave when at the World Championships in Berlin in August, Aditi defeated Andrea Becerra of Mexico 149-147 in the final to become the youngest archer to win an individual event at the senior world championships.
Ojas, meanwhile, beat Poland’s Lukasz Przybylski 150-149 in a tightly-fought final to become the first Indian male archer to win a gold medal at the Worlds. Jyothi Surekha Vennam, meanwhile, finished with a bronze in the individual compound event while the trio of Jyothi, Aditi and Parneet Kaur had earlier teamed up to win the women’s compound team event for India’s first-ever gold to finish with the country’s best haul of four medals at the Worlds.
Less than two weeks back, Ojas had lined up at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi to collect his Arjuna award from President Draupadi Murmu – a moment which is yet to sink with him. ‘’It all seems like a dream to me. My parents were also present to see me receive the award and I am grateful to archery that I would have been nowhere but for this sport,’’ said the Nagpur boy.
The road to recognition, as they revealed during a freewheeling chat with National Herald, had not been easy though. In Ojas’ family, shooting has been a hobby of sorts with his father being a snap shooter but archery caught his fancy during a summer camp and he won a gold in the 2019 School Nationals.
‘’It’s been a six-year journey for me and it was not easy. In Nagpur, there were no good coaches while equipment was also not available. The Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) took me and Aditi under their wings and this helped me in funding for my equipment and training. Once I got into the Indian team, things became a lot easier with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) now at hand to provide us with any requirement,’’ Ojas said.
The financial windfall after their Asiad medals, however, is going to make life a lot easier for the young pair. After the Indian Open, Ojas is set to fly out for the Las Vegas Shoot, the biggest indoor compound shooting event in the world.
Incidentally, both Ojas and Aditi being in compound archery – where the bow is equipped with a mechanical energy – they are not in the race for qualifying for a quota at the Paris Olympics for now as the Games only hosts recurve events. ‘’For me, coming up next is a World Cup while 2025 will be again a busy one with the World Championship and Asian Championships – hence the process continues,’’ Aditi said.
Daughter of a Math teacher in a government school in Satara near Pune, Aditi found her calling in archery around five years back. ‘’I was not keen to pursue a physical sport like wrestling and found archery quite peaceful and fascinating. My father enrolled me in a neighbourhood academy where my journey started,’’ she recalled.
However, with a bow costing Rs 2.5 lakh and arrows another Rs 50,000, financial pressure weighed on the family but her father was unwavering in his support for the prodigious daughter. He ran up a loan of Rs 10 lakhs in the process, but the daughter has now helped him repay the debt and turned around things for the family.
How tough was it to become the youngest champion in any category at the Worlds? ‘’The competition was quite tough but I am glad that I showed that age does not matter and it’s a matter of keeping the nerves. The top drawer experience helped me during the Asian Games campaign where everyone worked hard and we made a sweep in compound.’’
In Hangzhou, Aditi was a team member in the gold winning squad while she finished with an individual bronze medal to boot. How about any idols? ‘’Yes, I learn a lot from the likes of Jyoti didi, Abhishek Verma as also Colombia’s Sarah Lopez,’’ the baby of Indian archery signed off