Battle-rope exercise, Endurance Training And More: How Sergio Pagni Produced World Champion Indian Archers


Rigorous battle-rope exercises to build upper body muscles, endurance training and stress management were India’s recipes for securing historic three gold medals in the recent World Championships, compound archery chief coach Sergio Pagni said on Wednesday. Pagni, a two-time World Cup Final winner Italian, was hired as chief compound archery coach in December last year. He had earlier conducted a programme for the Indian archers in the build-up to the 2018 Asian Games.

“My way of teaching archery is little more complex than others. My method is managing them in three phases — physical which means a lot of workout sessions, technical and the mental part how to manage stress and emotions,” Pagni told PTI in an exclusive interview.

“Playing matches after matches at the highest level, winning or losing, can be mentally very draining. Even if you are very gifted, but playing a final can stress you so much emotionally.” Indian archers had never been able to cross the final hurdle in the earlier editions, but this time, they won three gold and bronze — all in compound section – in a historic performance.

The women’s team of Jyothi Surekha Vennam, Aditi Swami and Parneet Kaur clinched the country’s first ever gold medal on August 4. The individual archers followed suit with 17-year-old Aditi becoming the youngest player to secure the women’s crown the next day, and hours later, Ojas Deotale became the men’s world champion.

Pagni said some of the Indian archers have never been to a gym before coming to the national camp.

So, he, along with his personal trainer, introduced some core muscle building exercises like battle rope training at the Sonipat centre of the Sports Authority of India.

“In the last 10 years, me and my personal trainer work a lot on functional training. Like focusing more on battle rope exercises, work more endurance training.

“When you lift 30 kgs for more than 30 seconds, a couple of hundred times a day with windy conditions, it becomes tough.

“So, endurance is very important. I introduced my personal training and it works a lot. Junior guys never touched the gym in proper way. We just changed some basic exercises, focus more on muscles.” Aditi had a near perfect show to shoot 149 out of a possible 150 points to beat her rival by two points.

Deotale, on the other hand, was flawless, shooting 150, and pipped his opponent by one point en route to becoming the world champion.

India had previously lost in the finals of World Archery Championships four times in recurve section and five times in the compound discipline.

Jyothi has been a four-time losing finalist, while the most accomplished Indian male compound archer Abhishek Verma lost once.

So, it was about keeping the Indian archers motivated and not bogged down by the final pressure.

“It was about telling them stories. We must not forget the contribution of Jyothi and Abhishek who have already won in the past. They have already won in the past, so this helps a lot for the new generation to see as a possibility,” said the Italian.

“It is not something that is impossible to reach. The classic problem during the finals is they start to focus on the aiming point, and not able to follow the technical aspect. It can be very distracting sometimes.” Pagni said it’s easier to coach Indians than the Europeans who are too much focused on individual results.

“They (Indians) are never lazy when they are following the flag of India. They always are ready to give 200 per cent for the team.

“This is something that is hard to find in Europe, they focus too much individual results. It’s easier to coach them (the Indians).” Pagni has achieved almost everything under the sun in archery which includes 10 gold at World Cup, two at World Cup Final and four at World Championships.

The fact that he never won an individual gold medal at the outdoor World Championships always hurt him. But now, it’s like he has achieved that also.

“It was like me winning my first ever World Championships gold. I could live my dream through them. It was really fulfilling.” The next target is the Asian Games in Hangzhou, where also India are in search of their first ever individual gold.

India have previously won a compound team gold in men’s section at the Incheon edition in 2014. In 2018, the Indian men’s and women’s teams lost the finals narrowly to settle for silver medals.

“Target is obviously to make the finals, then play it in the best possible way. But we got to remember after winning one competition, winning the next one is more difficult. We can easily fail, we must remember that,” Pagni said.

Mission LA 2028

Pagni’s contract will end in October after the Asian Games but the Italian, who is still an active shooter at indoor level, has some grand plans for the Indians.

There is a chance that compound archery might be added to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, after an application from World Archery to include the discipline in the sports programme. A decision is likely in October-November this year.

“We close everything after Asian Games, then we sit and see if Archery Association of India is interested in keeping me,” Pagni said about his contract.

But there is a bigger target for Pagni.

“If compound archery is included in 2028 Olympics, there is a 95 per cent chance that it would be for indoor competitions.

“But Indian athletes have less experience of indoor shooting. I plan to discuss this with AAI and if we can have a season for indoor competition in winters.

“It’s completely different type of shots, you can have some trouble. We Weed to start as soon as possible to be ready.” And, if compound archery is included in the Olympics, Pagni will be back in competition again.

“It’s a long unfulfilled dream. My wife (Pia Carmen Lionetti) is a two-time Olympian and it would be great if I become one too,” he signed off.

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