From Maharashtra’s village to Tokyo: 25-year-old archer Pravin Jadhav aims to make it big en

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Intitally he started as a runner, and archery came his way by accident. He was selected for the sport during a drill when he threw 10 out of 10 balls in a ring from a 10-metre distance

Indian archer Pravin Jadhav had two choices to make as a young boy in Maharashtra’s Sarade village — join his father as a wage labourer or run on the track for a better living.

Never in his dreams, had he thought of representing India in the Olympics and that too in a sport alien to him. About 10-years down the line, the boy from Satara district has progressed enough to be one of the medal prospects for India in archery at the Tokyo Games. But his journey has been full of hardships.

He almost joined his father as a daily wage labourer before things changed for the better for the Jadhav family. Struggling to make ends meet, his father had told him that he has to drop out after class seven and join him at the construction site.

« Our condition was really bad then, » Jadhav said. One fine day, Jadhav’s sports teacher at his Zilla Parishad School in Sarade, Vikas Bhujbal, asked him to compete in athletics to earn a better living.

« Bhujbal sir told me to start running and take part in competitions. ‘At least you would get to earn a better living here and won’t have to go for daily wage work’ so I started running 400-800 metres, » Jadhav said. Archery came his way by accident at the Krida Prabodhini hostel in Ahmednagar distrct, he was selected for the sport during a drill when he threw 10 out of 10 balls in a ring from a 10-metre distance.

He has not looked back since then and his family is also no longer grappling with poverty. He was sent to Krida Prabodhini in Amravati district before being picked by the Army Sports Institute in Pune. And then there was no stopping him. He won his first-ever international medal — a team bronze — at the 2016 Asia Cup Stage 1 in Bangkok. At the World Championships 2019 in Den Bosch, in the Netherlands, he along with Tarundeep Rai and Atanu Das secured the men’s team Olympic qualification for the first time since London Olympics 2012. The men’s team went on to win the World Championships’ silver after a long gap of 14-years, and the juniormost archer Jadhav shone brightly as an Olympic prospect.

He finally cemented his Tokyo berth in style, topping the selection trials for the Olympics with his score of 2727 and won six out of seven one-on-one matches to go past the much-acclaimed Rai and Das. « I learnt the sport from Sunil Thakre sir at Amravati and then Praful Dange sir continued with me before I joined the Army, » Jadhav said.  « I’m also blessed to have our association secretary Pramod Chandurkar sir behind me. He has been a constant support and guidance. Things are much better with my family now, » he added. 

Talking about Jadhav, Indian chief coach Mim Bahadur Gurung said, « He has got a lot of potential. His biggest quality is that he remains calm, composed and unnerved irrespective of the situation, [that’s] the biggest quality for an archer. »

« He is gifted and is a strict disciplinarian, something that impressed us but he needs to be consistent, » former Army and India coach Ravi Shankar, who worked with Jadhav during his formative years at ASI, Pune, said. As he prepares for the big day in Tokyo, Jadhav feels he’s fully prepared to deal with the Olympic pressure even as it would be his maiden appearance. « There will be pressure on everyone. For me, I will concentrate only on shooting well and contribute to the team, » he concluded.

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