Tokyo: Indian archer Atanu Das on Thursday proved a point by knocking out two-time Olympic champion Oh Jin Hyek to join his wife Deepika Kumari in individual pre-quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.
Das, who had lost his place to rookie Pravin Jadhav in the fancied mixed team event after slipping to 35th place in the ranking round on Friday, showed nerves of steel to edge out the legendary Korean in a one-arrow shootoff.
The individual Olympic champion from London 2012 and a team gold medallist here, Oh started the shootoff with a 9 as Das deliverd a perfect 10, hitting the bull’s eye to seal the issue 6-5 (10-9) in an extraordinary fashion.
Earlier in the day, Das saw off a tough challenge from Chinese Taipei’s Deng Yu-Cheng to win 6-4 from being locked 4-4.
There will be another tough challenge in the last-16 for Das, who will face home favourite Takaharu Furukawa, an individual silver medalist at London 2012 Olympics and a team bronze winner here.
The remaining individual events, including the medal rounds of the women’s and men’s, will be decided on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Chasing India’s first ever Olympic medal in archery, Deepika and Das, who are the first Indian couple to take part in the same discipline in the Games, are the only two Indians left in fray.
The mixed team and men’s team had made quarterfinal exits on Saturday, while the Army duo of Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav lost out in their respective last-32 matches on Wednesday.
Returning to action a week after the ‘break up’ with Deepika Kumari for the mixed pair event, Das showed amazing resilience as he bounced back from being 2-4 down to edge out the 39-year-old Korean great by the thinnest of margins.
Incidentally, Das had beaten Oh earlier too in the shootoff for a bronze medal in the Asian Championships in Bangkok in 2019.
But dealing with the utmost pressure and to win at the biggest stage of the Olympics was something “more special”.
“Yahan pe dimaag chala raha tha, dil nahin. (Obviously there was a lot of pressure but I just tried to maintain my focus and didn’t listen to my heart),” Das said after the win.
“We all know he is an Olympic champion and how great he’s… Every match in the Olympics is like a final, so it feels more special.”
On his 2019 match-up, Das said: “It was quite a tense moment, I just maintained my nerves. It was about handling the situation better in that particular moment.
“I came to know that he is going to shoot first and he delivered a 9… I knew I’ve to either shoot a 10 or go out of the competition. I gave it a shot and won the match.”
The dramatic finish saw both players tying three sets in an intense five-setter to force a shootoff.
Oh, who was the first-ever Korean to win the individual Olympic gold medal in 2012, struggled to find a 10 in the first set but Das also had a slow start as the heavyweight archer took the first set by one-point margin (25-26).
Oh, the oldest-ever Olympic gold medallist in archery, finally found the 10-ring in his fourth arrow but only to hit in the red circle in his final arrow as a consistent Das levelled the game (27-all) shooting three 9s.
Trailing 1-3, Das once again shot three 9s as the third set panned out in a similar fashion with both tying it 27-all for an overall 2-4 lead to the Korean giant, who delayed retirement to come back and compete in Tokyo.
Desperate to win a set for a turnaround, the Indian finally found a 10 after 11 arrows as Oh had his worst set, misfiring 7 and 6 in the last two arrows to concede the fourth set to the Indian 27-22 for an overall score of 4-4.
The decider also went down the wire as both shot an identical 10-9-9 to force a one-arrow shootoff where the third seed Korean took on the target first.
The sequence of the shootoff follows the sequence of the start of the match, something that was chosen by the higher seed player.
Earlier, Das had a thrilling first round match as he was tied 4-4 against Deng Yu-Cheng.
In the decider too, Das and Deng were going neck-and-neck till 19-all but the archer from Chinese Taipei crumbled under pressure, misfiring a 7 as Das held his nerve to drill in a 9 in the yellow-ring.
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