Indian Power Couple Deepika Kumari-Atanu Das Hit Reset Button, Seek Help Of Korean Coaching Legend Hyung-Tak

In pursuit of an elusive Olympic medal for India in archery, power couple Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das have left their 11-month-old daughter behind to find lost form and hone their skills under the legendary coach Kim Hyung-Tak, at a South Korean countryside. The duo, who have struggled to find their mojo since the Tokyo Olympics, have been camping at the Hyung-Tak Archery Training Centre at Goesan Gun in Chungbuk province in freezing cold conditions since November 11. The aim is to iron out their flaws in one final push before next year’s Olympics.

Having embraced motherhood in December last year, the former world No 1 and three-time Olympian Deepika is struggling to return to the Indian team. But even though she has gone through an upheaval, Deepika has not lost form completely. Upon her return at the Goa National Games earlier this month, she secured two gold medals and one team silver.

The two-time Olympian Atanu, who won a team silver at the Asian Games last month, has been in and out of the Indian team and recently failed to qualify for the Olympic-qualifying Asian Championships in Bangkok.

The competition has also become stiff with the rise of young crop, including Army youngster Dhiraj Bommadevara, who bagged the solitary Olympic quota for Paris 2024.

But for the power-couple who once reigned the Indian archery, it is now or never, and they are not ready to give up just yet.

“Abhi bhi Olympic medal ko leke ek bhookh aur lalach hai (The hunger and desire to win the elusive Olympic medal is very much intact,” Deepika, who has won every world title except an Olympics medal, told PTI from South Korea.

“I’ve been faltering at crucial moments of a match and his training is quite effective in fixing this and bring about consistency,” she said while sharing her experience of training with Hyung-Tak.

It’s her love for archery and burning desire for an Olympic medal which motivated super mom Deepika to remain away from her daughter.

The three-week stint, sponsored by Olympic Gold Quest, is the longest period that she has spent away from her child.

“From very early, we have raised her to stay without much fuss (while being) away from us. I had previously left her for a week during the national trials in Sonipat and she adapted well.

“This time marks the longest separation, and fortunately, everything has been going smoothly. She remains comfortable, even with occasional video calls,” Deepika said.

Terming this as the ‘toughest phase’ of her career, the multiple World Cup gold medallist said: “The body literally gives up after pregnancy, but I’ve been putting my best (effort) and have regained full fitness. I’ve also started finding the targets consistently now.”

‘A fulfilling and busy schedule’

Under freezing cold of minus 2 degree centigrade, the day begins at 8.30am. Deepika and Das train till around 7.30pm with one-hour lunch break in between.

“It’s been a crazy schedule and we hardly get time to check phone, but it’s been quite fulfilling,” Atanu said.

“Earlier, there would be 8-10 trainees. Now it’s only us, we are getting his full time,” said Atanu while sharing his experience with the South Korean coach.

“He’s an ocean of knowledge and every top archer has, at some point, sought his help. His training is very high-tech and effective that primarily focus on maintaining consistency.” In fact, for Atanu, this is for a third time that he has sought guidance of the Korean great, who has always given the Indian archer a magic mantra.

“The first (instance) was in 2015 when I made a comeback to make a debut in the Rio Olympics. I also had two short stints under him in 2017 and 2018. Every top archer comes here to seek his ‘divine blessings’. Hope it does it for us this time,” he added.

The road ahead

India have a solitary Olympic berth in men’s individual section courtesy Dhiraj. The final Olympic qualifying event is during the World Cup stage 3 in Antalya in June next year, while they can also earn team quotas by virtue of their rankings.

The national trial, which is yet to be announced, will determine the Indian probables for the Paris Olympics.

“It has been an enriching experience. I’m confident of making an India comeback this time,” Deepika signed off.

A veteran with more than five decades of experience in coaching, Hyung-Tak was the first full-time coach employed by the Korean Archery Association for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Having coached Korea till 1986 Seoul Asian Games, he subsequently led the Chinese Taipei’s surge in results in the 1990s.

In 2004, Hyung-Tak opened his own archery training centre and continues to coach resident and visiting athletes of all levels while travelling across the world to hold seminars and coaching workshops.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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