“Archery has become a part of my life. I am known because of archery. If I leave archery, I will be very normal. And if I have the title of archery with me then it will make me extraordinary,” says top Goa archer, Snehal Divakar as she prepares for her third Olympics trials.
Speaking further she says: “I am preparing and scoring on a regular basis. Working on my shooting skills and technique.”
“I could not perform well in the first Olympic trials but came back stronger in the second trial to secure the fourth rank. In the third trial, they will select the top eight from 20 players and then they will make two groups with four teams each. The top four players will be in the ‘A’ team while the others will be in the ‘B’ team. Team A will play maximum international tournaments whereas Team B will get to play only one international tournament,” she explains.
“If I get in the top four, I will be in Team A and will get many chances to play international tournaments and in those tournaments, I will have to qualify for Olympics, individually. I am working on my skills and am working hard. I will give my hundred per cent,” she emphasises.
Initially, Snehal wanted to be a taekwondo player, but her curiosity for archery resulted in her becoming one of India’s best archers.
It was in the taekwondo summer camp during her school days in 2008, where she first came across the sport of archery, she reveals. “In the same camp, there was an archery camp going on. That was the first time I saw archers shoot with the bow and arrow, and it made me really curious to know about the sport.”
“I used to find it very complicated – how archers controlled the whole bow and arrow. But after some time, I thought of switching my sport and went to coach Laxmi Devi Sharma. She looked at my physique and as I was a little plump and had broad shoulders, she thought I was best suited for archery. And that’s how my archery career took off,” she says.
“Under Laxmi Devi, I started playing and represented the state the same year but did not win any medal. But the next year, in 2009, I won a bronze for the state. Till 2012, I kept on winning medals for the state. After that, I switched to the recurve bow. My parents were very supportive and they bought me a modern recurve bow that cost `2 lakh. With that bow, I had to work really hard and give more time to training. But as I had to attend college as well, I could not manage archery that well. The infrastructure, as well, was not good, for example, with the recurve bow I had to shoot 70 metres, which is quite a long distance. There wasn’t a proper area to practice and where I did practice, there would be a lot of people around on the track. So I could not focus with the fear of hitting someone. Not only that, but my college also did not support me. I used to practice 2-3 hours daily early morning and would reach college a little late. I even received reprimands from my teachers for being late. In Goa, 75 per cent attendance is compulsory, but it is not the case in other states. Over there, if they find out that a student is doing well in sports, they don’t insist on attendance. You come for two hours answer the exams and go. They are fine with it. But here it is very strict,” she shares.
“After representing Goa in two nationals with the recurve bow, I realised that the competition was really tough and since there was no proper infrastructure and other facilities in Goa, I decided to move out of the state so that I get all the facilities to train myself better. I gave trials at many academies but was finally chosen by SAIL Academy in Jharkhand. There I got all the facilities that I needed and also a good coach in Rajendra Guhia. In one month I got selected for their senior team and in the next six months, I made it to
the Indian team. In the meantime, I won many medals representing Jharkhand.”
Speaking about her achievements, she said, “I won many medals for Goa from 2009 to 2012. After shifting to Jharkhand, I won many medals for Jharkhand as well. Played four international tournaments and also attended one camp in Korea. I was in the Olympics top scheme in 2016, and because of which I got an
opportunity to go to Korea and train under Korean coach Kim, who is regarded as one of the best coaches in the world. I trained under him for 15 days.”
“So far I have done five trips abroad. Besides, I have played Asian GP, which was my first international tournament and the second one was the World Cup stage 1; third was the World Cup stage 2, and the fourth tournament I played internationally was the World University in 2016, in Mongolia.”
About the turning points in her career so far, she says, “There are three points that actually turned my career. First was when I met my first coach Laxmi Devi. If I had not met her, she would not have encouraged me to take up archery. Second, when I won my first medal, a bronze in the national championship held in Goa. I never expected to win a medal but that medal gave me the confidence and belief that I could also be the best in the business. Finally, my decision to shift to Jharkhand was the third turning point in my archery career as at SAIL Academy in Jharkhand, I got everything that I wanted to become a better archer.”
Snehal is presently based in Gujarat where she is pursuing her master’s in sports management from Gujarat University.
“I love to study. I wish to study till PhD. And would like to continue my studies along with archery,” the 25-year-old reveals.
Snehal is at the moment focusing on her third trial and wants to give her best. “I am fully focussed yet relaxed. I am not taking any tension and not thinking about the results. Because I know if I overthink, it will affect my performance. So the best thing is to relax and be calm and composed,” she says, certain that she is fully prepared and confident to give her best in the crucial third Olympic trial.