As a five-year-old, he was fascinated by archery, listening to the epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

And, now at 23, Dhiraj Bommadevara has every reason to feel proud, having clinched his maiden World Cup gold with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav in the men’s team recurve event at the just-concluded World Cup Stage I in Shanghai.

“It has to be a special moment, being my first World Cup gold, and more so since we beat the Olympics champions South Korea in the final,” said Dhiraj in an exclusive interview with Sportstar on Tuesday.

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“This gold is the culmination of all the hard work, planning and great team effort. The positivity around the squad, including that of the support, was contagious. There was never a moment when anyone felt bad about anyone else not doing well,” Dhiraj said.

“Since we are all from the Services, the understanding, coordination and the way we kept our communication channels really helped us a lot. Honestly, every time we entered the competition, we just didn’t bother about the opposition, took quick decisions, our focus was on what best we could do and we are glad to pull off such a memorable performance,” the Vijayawada-based archer said.

“The emphasis was not on the end-result but on the process and how best we can keep improving. For, the main target is to make it to the Olympics and win a gold there,” Dhiraj said.

For someone who was a trainee at the Cherukuri Volga Archery Academy in Vijayawada from 2006-18, before joining the Indian Army, Dhiraj is hopeful of making the cut for the Paris Olympics later this year as two more World Cups, with an Olympics qualifier, are scheduled before the Games.

“We have the right kind of exposure to make it, perfect training at the Sonepat National Camp where we have nothing to complain about. It will be a challenge no doubt but we are ready to face any,” he said.

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“Yes, we are conscious of not peaking too early before the Paris Olympics. We want to take it step by step for we are aware that we have a very good chance of winning an Olympic medal. We don’t want to stress ourselves too much,” the World Cup gold medallist said.

“We all will prepare according to the needs and aspirations because it is a team effort,” he said. “Thankfully, we have great support from everyone, including Sports Authority of India, Services, Archery Federation, Olympic Gold Quest. We have a great support system to back us and the onus is on us, frankly,” Dhiraj said.

The Junior Commissioned Officer in the Army said he would dedicate the World Cup gold to his parents B. Shrawan and B. Revathi, who quit their teachers’ jobs and have been a great support to him over the years.

“More than me, they have the Olympic gold as the target and go all out in backing me,” said the only proud son.

Some of the high points of Dhiraj’s career have been winning the Asian Games silver, partnering Atanu Das and Tushar Shelke, winning the individual bronze at the 2023 World Cup Stage I, beating Olympic champion Kim Woo Jin last year in a World Cup.

“There is absolutely no pressure on us and we are all focused as we join the National camp in Sonepat in a couple of days for the next two World Cups. We will give our best for sure and make our dream of Olympic gold come true,” signed off a confident Dhiraj.