On Friday, when Aditi Jaiswal boards the KLM flight for Medellin, in Columbia, it will be her first trip abroad and first chance to represent India. The Archery World Cup Stage IV is being hosted by the South American valley city and the 19-year-old from Baguiati has won herself a spot in the recurve team.
Aditi figured in the top eight in the senior national meet in March. “That made me eligible to take part in the trials along with 15 others. That included those who had made the cut in earlier competitions. We had a series of trials, with individual ranking rounds followed by a round robin league.” With just four spots for girls up for grabs in the recurve event, competition was tough. “She defeated (Olympian) Deepika Kumari by shooting a perfect 10 in the last round and came sixth,” her coach Rahul Banerjee said.
There are four archery World Cups that take place through the year. While the top four in the ranking round get to compete in the Stage I, II and III World Cups, those ranked 5th to 8th are sent to the Stage IV one.
Aditi was unaware about the selection procedure. So it was only when her coach told her to get ready for the trip that she realised that she had been in the running for a spot. “I was quite surprised,” she told The Telegraph Salt Lake, from the Sports Authority of India national camp in Sonipat, Haryana, where she has been training since May.
Back home, her practice pad is the Dola and Rahul Banerjee Sports Foundation rink in Ultadanga, set up by the Olympian brother-and-sister duo. “We are located near Hudco More, right opposite Bidhan Sishu Udyan. Before that, she was training at the SAI complex in Salt Lake where I spotted her in 2015,” says Rahul, who was then in the camp as a player.
The Ultadanga branch of the academy opened in 2021 in collaboration with Kolkata Police and Aditi has trained there since then under Rahul, who now stays in AQ Block in Sector V.
Aditi Jaiswal at the Dola & Rahul Banerjee Sports Foundation in Ultadanga.The Telegraph
She hit a purple patch from February this year, winning a gold and a silver at the University Games in Chandigarh, playing as a part of the Calcutta University team. She has not looked back since. “My first priority is archery,” she says, resolutely.
Aditi picked up a bow at the age of 10, following in the footsteps of her elder brother Adarsh. He has long quit but Aditi is persevering. Initially she was shooting with a wooden Indian bow. “Then my school (Mahadevi Birla Sishu Vihar) told me that I would be gifted an imported one if I could bring a national medal,” says the girl who does not come from an affluent family. An imported bow costs upwards of Rs 3 lakh.
Aditi lost the bronze medal by a solitary point in a national meet in 2017. “Seeing my hard work, my school decided to give me a bow anyway,” she said. It is with that recurve Wiawis bow of Korean make that she will be boarding the flight. She is now studying economics honours at St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous). “My school is still helping me out by replacing parts of the bow.”
Aditi has an outside chance of making it to the World Cup finals later this year. The World Cup finals are second only to the Olympics in terms of the level of competition as the top eight ranked players can compete. “To qualify for that, I have to win a gold or a silver in Columbia. It's tough but that's what a player plays for — a rise to the next level — isn't it?” she ends with a rhetorical question.