Former Olympic champion Baek Woong Ki becomes India archery coach

Former Olympic champion Baek Woong Ki becomes India archery coach

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The national federation has appointed Olympic gold medal-winning coach Baek Woong Ki to assist with the recurve squad in a significant boost to Indian archery ahead of the 2024 Paris Games. The season-opening World Cup Stage 1 is scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Antalya, Turkey.

The South Korean, who directed his nation's double gold medal triumph in the women's individual and team categories at the London Olympics, will begin his India term there. After the Asian Games in 2014, India had never before employed a foreign coach. In reality, Sergio Pagni, a two-time Italian World Cup champion, has been enlisted by the Archery Association of India (AAI) and will go to Turkey with the compound squad.

Woong Ki has been offered a contract through the Olympics after originally working at the Centre of Excellence at SAI, Sonipat. According to Indian archery's high performance director and Dronacharya Awardee Sanjeeva Singh, "He has been appointed India's recurve coach and will serve in that capacity until the Asian Games and then the Olympics." 

On the other hand, the 44-year-old former world champion Pagni has been working with the compound squad since 2018, when he oversaw a training regimen for the Asian Games. "His familiarity and experience with Indian archers made him an automatic choice," the speaker continued. The pair's first major test will come in the World Cup, where India will present a new-look side made up primarily of youth players. 

With the exception of the trio of compound archer Jyothi Surekha Vennam, two-time Olympian Atanu Das, and 2010 Asian Games silver medalist Tarundeep Rai, the Indian team has a number of fresh faces. The top-ranked Indian Abhishek Verma (world No. 13), a five-time World Cup gold medalist and a past World Championship silver medalist, is the biggest name to be left out of the compound division. 

The spotlight will be on the well-known Korean to get the most performance out of the Indian squad, which will be without prominent players like Deepika Kumari, Riddhi Phor, and Komalika Bari because they didn't make the cut. “I’ve met Woong Ki during the trials in Kolkata, he was part of the CoE and looked full of energy and positive vibes. I’m looking forward to a good show,” Deepika said. 

The entire focus will be on the women's team, where Aditi Jaiswal will compete in her second World Cup, even if the recurve men's team will be the most heavily favoured thanks to the expertise of Rai and Das. In the men's and women's divisions of the compound section, Rishabh Yadav, Ojas Deotale, Aditi Swamy, and Sakshi Choudhary will make their debuts. 

“The juniors are upcoming and doing well. They have come through a rigorous two-phase trial in Kolkata and Sonipat. We expect them to come out strongly,” Singh said. “We want to see how they overcome anxiety pangs. A good start (in the qualification) will set them up,” Singh added. 

(With PTI inputs)

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