Indian archer Pravin Jadhav had two choices to make as a young boy: join his father as a salaried worker or run on the track to live better.
Never in his dream had he thought of representing India at the Olympic Games and that too in a sport which was foreign to him.
About 10 years later, the boy from Sarade village in Satara district in Maharashtra has progressed enough to be one of India’s medal hopefuls in archery at the Tokyo Games.
But his journey was strewn with pitfalls. He almost joined his father as a day laborer before things changed for the better for the Jadhav family.
Struggling to make ends meet, his father told him he had to drop out after seventh class and join him at the construction site, where he worked himself.
“Our condition was really bad then. My family had already told me to drop class 7 and join my father on the construction site,” Jadhav recalls during an interaction with PTI.
One fine day, Jadhav’s sports teacher at his Zilla Parishad school in Sarade, Vikas Bhujbal, found some promise in him and asked him to do athletics for a better living.
“Bhujbal sir told me to start running and participate in competitions. ‘At least you would make a better living here and you won’t have to earn a daily salary, so I started running 400-800 meters. ”
Archery happened by accident at the Krida Prabodhini hostel in Ahmednagar when he was selected for the sport during an exercise where he threw 10 out of 10 balls into a ring from a distance of 10 meters.
He hasn’t looked back since then and his family is no longer struggling with poverty.
He was sent to Krida Prabodhini in Amravati before being chosen by the Army Sports Institute in Pune, from where he enjoyed a meteoric rise, winning his very first international medal – a team bronze medal. – during stage 1 of the 2016 Asian Cup in Bangkok.
At the 2019 World Championships in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, he, along with Tarundeep Rai and Atanu Das, won the men’s Olympic team qualification for the first time since the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The men’s team went on to win a silver medal at the World Championships after a long 14-year gap as the most junior archer Jadhav shone as a future Olympic prospect.
He ultimately cemented his place in Tokyo in style, leading the selection trials for the Olympics with a score of 2,727 and winning six of the seven head-to-head matches to overtake the much-acclaimed Rai and Das.
“I learned the sport from Sunil Thakre Sir in Amravati, then Praful Dange Sir continued with me before joining the army.
“I am also blessed to have our association secretary Pramod Chandurkar behind me. He has been constant support and guidance. Things are going a lot better with my family now.”
Speaking about Jadhav, Indian head coach Mim Bahadur Gurung said: “He has a lot of potential. His greatest quality is that he stays calm, composed and edgy in any situation, the greatest quality for an archer. . ”
“He’s good and is a strict disciplinarian, something that impressed us, but he has to be consistent,” said former Army and India trainer Ravi Shankar, who worked with Jadhav during his years of training at ASI, Pune.
As he prepares for the big day in Tokyo, Jadhav believes he is fully prepared to face Olympic pressure, even though it would be his first appearance.
“There will be pressure on everyone. For me, I will just focus on the good shot and contribute to the team,” he concluded.