Replicating conditions of International venues key to India’s Olympic success

Mangal Singh is an Indian archer who has represented India in many International tournaments. He has won medals at the Asian Games, World Cups, Archery Championships and has even represented the country at the Olympics. 

In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mangal Singh spoke about his career so far, his inspirations, the importance of mental health, challenges faced by archers and promoting the sport at the grassroot level. 
When were you first introduced to archery? When did you realize that it’s a sport you can pursue professionally?

I had heard about archery during the 1992 Olympics while Limba Ram sir was playing. My elder brother told me about him and the Olympic games. In 1993, the Sports Authority of India were carrying out selection trials in our school and that’s how I got formally introduced to the sport. I was selected for the SAI after the trails and went to Ranchi, Jharkhand. In the same year, we participated in the state championship. I was extremely impressed by the new ground, top archers and the atmosphere there. I really thought I could play like them. So that's how it started.

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Who have been some of the most influential people in your journey so far?

Limba Ram sir, Japan's Olympic medalist Yamamoto and Olympic Champion Justin Huish. I saw him a couple of times on my TV and I also had his video cassette, which I would ardently watch to make a note of his shooting style and all the preparations he did. I have also met Yamamoto a couple of times. They were my idols and motivated me in my career.

What is the most memorable moment of your career?

It has to be the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar, Doha where we won the very first medal for the country as India hadn't won any medals in the Asian games. That was my biggest and most memorable achievement.

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In 2009, you received the Arjuna Award by the President of India. How proud are you of that achievement?

I'm very proud. Especially for all the hard work and training my coaches put in me and I could live up to their expectations. I'm proud of myself and my coaches. I put up relentless hard work for it. By the time I was honoured with the Arjuna award, I had played in the Olympics, earned medals at Asian Games, World Cup, Commonwealth and at state levels. I’m proud that I could do it for my country and got rewarded for the same.

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What do you think of India’s chances of winning medals at archery in the Tokyo Olympics?

Yes I definitely believe India can win medals at archery. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the players in training camps will not have distractions and can only focus on the preparations. They are not even allowed to go outside or get holidays during the weekends. I think it’s a good time to prepare since they can focus all their attention to archery. I have big hopes pinned on them for the upcoming Olympic games.

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What can be done to promote archery at the grassroot level? 

The first thing I would like to say is that archery academies should be opened at the village level and archers at every level should be given the necessary equipment along with access to physiotherapists, doctors and massages for rest and recovery. Archers are expected to practice from morning to the evening and the shoulders face a lot of strain which becomes painful. That’s why physiotherapists and doctors are necessary. The cities already have academies but the villages don’t, and if we hope to compete at the highest level, these facilities are necessary.  

As a professional archer who has competed at many International tournaments, how important would you say is mental health to be successful? 

That’s a good question, not just for archers but the sport. Mental health, psychology and training the mind to achieve a balance is necessary. Archers also have to learn to do yoga to control breathing, it's important for the mind and body to work cohesively. Only after all this has been achieved can the mind focus at its maximum capacity to shoot on target. If you’re not mentally strong, you will be distracted and that’s why breathing and yoga are so important to remain mentally focused. 

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What are the challenges Indian archers face and what can be done to solve them?

Let’s assume there is no problem with the equipment or physical and mental fitness. The next challenge lies in replicating the conditions where the next tournament is held. Training needs to be held in conditions where the wind pressure, speed, direction and temperature are almost identical to where the tournament is taking place. This will help archers be better prepared for what’s to come and use their training before the tournament to achieve better results. 

What would be your message to aspiring archers in the country?

The challenges that archers face, whether it’s at a physical or mental level are very demanding. It requires patience and discipline and archery helps people improve their lives. It’s a sport that teaches you a lot of things that can be applied in daily life. Archery requires speed, power, patience and mental strength just like any other sport. Aspiring archers should not get disheartened if they don’t manage to achieve many medals in the sport because they will learn a lot of qualities that will help them in life. 

Who are the people who have helped you in your journey so far?

Whatever I have achieved is because of other people, my coaches, the AAI secretary general Mr. Paresh Nath Mukherjee, Andhra Pradesh district president Mr. Cherukuri Satyanarayana and my brother who used to take me on the cycle from the village to my training center. The players, officials and coaches have helped me reach where I am, I hope they pray for me and help me going forward so that I can achieve more. I also want to thank the media who tell the public about us and make us heroes. 


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