The Indian campaign at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires ended on a high note, with a silver medal in archery through Akash Malik.
The 16-year-old Malik, who trains at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, settled for silver in the boys’ recurve event, losing to USA’s Trenton Cowles 0-6 in the final on October 17. With Malik’s silver India ended the Youth Olympics with its best ever haul of 13 medals (3 gold, 9 silver and one bronze), finishing 17th on the table topped by Russia (59 medals including 29 golds).
The son of a farmer hailing from Umra village near Hansi in Haryana, Malik started on a positive note in the final against Cowles, hitting the bullseye for a 10 point score in his first attempt.
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However, he lost focus and shot a 6 in the next attempt and though he managed to get another 10, he lost the first set 26-28. In the second set, Cowles shot two 10s and a 9 to seal it 29-27. In the third set, Malik shot another six and that effectively killed his chances of keeping the final alive.
The silver medal, in itself, is no mean achievement for Malik, who began his journey in the sport six years ago using a wooden contraption for bow and cow dung cakes as target.
“I have trained in the wind, but here it was too much,” said Malik, who bettered Atul Verma’s feat of winning a bronze in archery at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing. “I feel good [with the silver] but [am sad} that I lost the gold medal.”
After winning the medal, Malik told PTI about how he got initiated into archery.
“One day my friends took me to a field where I saw kids aiming at a target with arrows,” said Malik. “Mujhe laga woh shikaar kar rahe hain (I thought they were hunting something).
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Till then, Malik’s favourite sport was cricket. “Mujhe laga mein kuchh kar sakta hoon (I thought I could do something),” he said, about his first tryst with the sport.
Soon, Manjeet Malik, a physical education teacher and archery coach, noticed the young kid’s calm demeanor during a trial. “He was very calm and composed and I thought he could shoot arrows steadily. He now shoots with confidence. It was raining as well when the final started,” the coach was quoted by PTI.
Malik’s first victory was earned the support of the family who wanted him to focus on academics.
“Initially my parents dissuaded me as they wanted me to study to land a government job. But after I started winning medals they have started backing me fully. They must be very happy now,” he added. “Now I’ve to put in more effort and hope to qualify for Tokyo Olympics.”
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