Now India matters in global games

India had never won 100 ­medals in world games, until the Hangzhou Asian Games in ­Sept-Oct 2023, when our sportsmen set a new ­benchmark with a record tally of 107 ­medals. The credit for the great show must go to the 16 member archery team members, most of whom are coached by Pravin Sawant, the hospital ward boy-turned-police constable in Satara, Maharashtra.

“Our archers rose like a phoenix to achieve success overcoming adversity and many hurdles,” said Jhankar Gadkari from RC Deonar, while moderating a panel talk with archers, their coach Sawant, open water swimmer Prabhat and his father-turned-coach Raju Koli at the Rotary zone institute in Bengaluru. Aditi Gopichand Swami (17), the world’s youngest senior archery champion, and 21-year-old Ojas Deotale, the first Indian male to win a gold at the World Archery Championship (Berlin, 2023) and currently ninth in the global ranking, are products of Drushti Archery Academy being run by Sawant at an one-acre sugarcane field in Satara.

RI President Gordon McInally and PDG V R Muthu honour swimmer Prabhat Koli with an award. From L: PDG Chandu Agarwal, RID Raju Subramanian, Raju Koli, archers Aditi Gopichand Swami, Ojas Deotale, coach Pravin Sawant and Jhankar Gadkari.

Both the young archers were groomed by Sawant who in his younger days aspired to become a champion, but his economic condition and poor facilities available to him put a halt to his ambition. Prabhat Koli (23), the youngest person to complete the Oceans Seven, the world’s toughest sea routes, said his parents advised him to ‘swim with your mind, not body’ as open water swimming is all about “80 per cent mental strength and only 20 per cent physical endurance.”


While the archers’ rise as world champions is a gallant story of grit, resolutions and tribulations, it was their coach Sawant who made it happen at his academy, and this despite facing many hurdles, said Gadkari. “While following his passion of coaching the archers, Sawant had to quit his job, was forced to sell his house, mortgaged his mother’s and wife’s jewellery, and overcame hurdles to set up the training centre.” Now aiming for Olympic medals, the archery coach said, “I have a strong bond with my young pupils, and will be happy if we can add more facilities and equipment in my academy for robust training.”

Originally a cash prize of ₹9 lakh (₹2 lakh each for the three sportsmen and ₹1.5 lakh each for the two coaches) had been planned, but with institute convenor Raju Subramanian inviting spontaneous donations, there was an outpouring of generosity from the ­delegates, pushing the total prize money to ₹17 lakh. Subramanian and PRID C Basker (₹2 lakh each) were among the contributors.

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