We'll Be The Ones To Beat At Asian Games 2023: India Compound Archery Coach Sergio Pagni

For the first time, 10 medals will be at stake in archery at the Asian Games with the addition of mixed events in recurve and compound sections.

Indian archery team during a practice session in Tokyo.

Boasting three reigning world champions, India's compound archery team will undoubtedly start as favourites and the opponents will be gunning to "beat" the side at the ongoing Asian Games 2023 said the country's head coach Sergio Pagni. (Medal Tally | Schedule | Streaming Full Coverage | More Sports News)

For the first time, 10 medals will be at stake in archery at the Asian Games with the addition of mixed events in recurve and compound sections. 

And going by their dominance at the world level this year, India will be firm favourites to finish on the podium in all five events in the compound section.

"Everyone knows what we have achieved this year, not only at the World Championships but throughout the season," Pagni told PTI from SAI Sonipat before the team left for Hangzhou in the early hours of Thursday.

"...We are the ones to beat, and perhaps the only issue is that some teams will be putting extra effort against us.

"However, we know how to handle this kind of pressure and the World Cup in Paris demonstrated that quite well," added the two-time World Cup Final winner. India had a windfall of medals in the compound section this year which was headlined by 17-year-old Aditi Swami's feat of becoming the youngest-ever senior world champion.

Ojas Deotale also annexed the men's world crown, while the women's compound team scripted Indian archery's watershed moment with aplomb in Berlin. 

The Indian women's team of seasoned Jyothi Surekha Vennam, Aditi and Parneet Kaur dropped just five points between them to beat Mexico in the final.

From the four stages of the World Cup this year, the compound archers have bagged seven gold and four bronze medals.

India have also won one silver (Prathamesh Jawkar) in the World Cup Final and one bronze in the World Games, taking their overall medals tally in the world events to seven gold, one silver and five bronze.

"I don't want to make predictions, it's not my style. This year we brought home about 50 per cent of the gold medals from the World Cups and the World Championships. I leave the predictions to other teams," said Pagni.

The coach feels that recurve heavyweights Korea, who are making a rapid improvement in compound section, will be a formidable force while Malayasia are also competitive.  

"China is not considered very strong, but Korea has had excellent results in recent years. This year we have outperformed them in all competitions, but they remain formidable opponents, our real opponent on the field," Pagni said. 

"Malaysia have also produced excellent results this year, but certainly our results at the world stage make us the one to beat," the Italian reiterated.

The team had a month-long camp at SAI Sonipat and Pagni is happy with the way things have panned out.

"The preparation has gone exactly as I had planned, we have had no injuries and that's a great thing," he said. 

"From a physical and technical perspective, the athletes have worked very hard and have stood out in their commitments on and off the field. No changes need to be made, the team is in a great condition." 

The only setback came in the World Cup Final in Hermosillo, Mexico earlier this month, India had four competitors in the compound section but returned with only a silver.

Blaming it on jet lag, Pagni said it was not a setback and the performance there would not affect them much at the Asian Games. 

"I don't think this will influence our athletes very much. The competition in Mexico was a particularly unusual Final with very hot weather and a late-night schedule under artificial lights," he said.

"The athletes had some difficulties due to jet lag, which was challenging to recover from in just two days but they still achieved good results. The entire team is focused on moving forward and is not dwelling on competitions that didn't go well."  

The 44-year-old took charge of the Indian team in December and his contract is up for renewal after the Asian Games.

Thanking the Archery Association of India (AAI), Pagni said he's "available" for a short-term contract. 

"The support the federation has given me during this project has been great, a competent staff, excellent equipment and facilities, and a great pool of athletes. "For the next year, I have individual projects and have already expressed my availability to the federation, but for shorter periods," he said.

"This year, I must especially thank my family, who made big effort to support me during so many weeks away from home."