Already an Olympian and one of India’s Tokyo-bound archers, Atanu Das will be eager to put his best foot forward both in the individual and team events when he competes at the Olympics next year.
Hailing from Kolkata and passionate about dancing, music, and travelling, Atanu Das is a man of many talents but none on the level of his love for archery.
Atanu Das took to archery early, when he was as young as 14 years old before moving to the Tata Archery Academy in 2008 and training under Korean coach Lim Chae Wong.
The first taste of success
He made his international debut the same year and has not looked back since, bagging his first gold medal at the senior level in the Recurve men's team event at the 34th National Games and silver in the men’s event at the World Youth Championships in 2011.
The Indian archer went from strength to strength after his win in the National Games, continuing his superb form that year by capturing gold medals in the Recurve men's individual event as well as Recurve mixed team event and a bronze in the Recurve men's team event at the 3rd Asian Grand Prix in Dhaka.
He also won bronze medals in the men's individual event, mixed team event and men's team event at the 2013 Asian Archery Grand Prix in Thailand. He also bagged a bronze medal with Deepika Kumari in the World Cup mixed team event organized in Colombia that year.
However, it was the silver medals at the men’s team event in the 2014 World Cups in Medellin and Wroclaw that really thrust him into the limelight.
Disappointment at Rio
After the World Cup, world archery saw him continue to rise through the ranks as he edged out the more experienced duo of Jayanta Talukdar and Mangal Singh Champia for a place in Rio 2016 – his maiden Olympic appearance.
He was the lone Indian representative in the men’s category at the Rio Games and couldn’t quite make the impact he had wanted to while competing against world South Korea’s Lee Seung-Yun under a light shower.
Despite narrowly missing out on progressing to the next round in Rio four years back, the experience of competing in sports’ showpiece event showed him that he wasn’t up to the mark to perform at his best.
In his own words, his lack of mental strength and anxiety in Rio prevented him from being at his best.
"After my Rio experience, I learnt how important it is to have the right mind," he told ESPN. "Our sport is so much about being able to manage confidence, concentration and anxiety. The margin between medal and no medal is just so narrow."
Having said that, the experience in Rio, undoubtedly, taught him innumerable lessons and now stands him in good stead heading into the Tokyo Games.
Targeting redemption at Tokyo
After a relatively quiet phase over the next two years that also saw him get engaged to archer Deepika Kumari in 2018, Atanu Das qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with Indian archers Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav in the men’s team event after a 5-3 win against Canada in the 2019 World Championships pre-quarterfinals.
Atanu Das followed that up by forcing the rest of world archery to sit up and take notice again with three bronze medals at the Asian Archery Championships last year.
He came in third in the individual event, the team event as well as the mixed event, which featured him teaming up with his fiancé Deepika Kumari.
With the Tokyo Games now postponed by a year, Atanu Das will have plenty of time on his hands to prepare and right the wrongs he made in Rio 2016.
Although lots have been expected of Indian archery in the past few Olympics, they haven’t always lived up to the billing. In Atanu Das, though, they have themselves a determined competitor motivated by his disappointment in Rio.
One of just four archers to have qualified for Tokyo so far, a lot of India’s hopes of a medal in the discipline rests on Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari’s shoulders.