Indian eye: Archery
Number of competitors
Indian eye: Archery
Last year in July, the Indian cricket team got hammered by England at the Lord's Test. In the last 12 months, seeing the way the team has spiralled down the rankings, it seems India can win glory at Lord's only through a sport that's not cricket.
Maybe archery is the answer. Never in the history of the Indian Olympics campaigns has the mood of the Indian sports fan been as sanguine as it is this year. And among all sports, it's in archery that expectations are soaring. London marks the Olympics debut for four of the six archers, but their form and rankings inspire hope. Deepika Kumari is the world No. 1 individually, the men's team is ranked No. 2 and the women's team No. 3.
To the average Indian sports fan, it could appear that competition archery has sprung up out of nowhere, but the fact is that archery and archers have been around for several decades. It never had a high profile in the country because while the archers won many medals in international tournaments, they could do nothing of note in the Olympics. Despite several appearances in the Olympics, no Indian archer had a performance worth remembering except three-time Olympian Limba Ram, who missed a medal at Barcelona 1992 by a single point. He was practically the face of Indian archery then. Limba Ram could not script a success story himself but he retains hope of glory at the Olympics — he is the current coach of the squad. He is confident that the team would make history at London, bringing to an end a long drought in the Olympics.
With the Indian archers competing in all categories at London, Limba Ram and the Archery Association of India officials nurture strong hopes of at least two medals. They pin high hopes on both the teams to grab a medal each, but one individual is the focus of their expectations — yes, Deepika Kumari.
As per the latest world rankings released by FITA, the international archery federation, Deepika, the youngest member of the squad, is No. 1 in the world. After her performances in the recent international tournaments, she surpassed the world’s top archers from South Korea and China, becoming the first Indian to win this honour. Before her, India's long-time archery sweetheart Dola Banerjee had reached the second spot in the FITA rankings. As for Deepika, her composed attitude and ability to perform well under pressure make her the pick in the squad in London.
The Indian women's recurve team of Deepika, Olympian Laishram Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro has emerged as a strong trio, winning various medals in World Cup stages after their qualification for London last year. They’ve had the benefit of time to get acquainted with each other's style and timing, they’ve been able to combine and strategise for the Olympics. Though Swuro and Bomabayla don't enjoy very high individual rankings (46 and 48, respectively), the three of them together have combined exceptionally well. Being second to South Korea in the world is no joke — it says a lot about their chemistry and coordination.
Coming to the men, the individual credentials of all three — Jayanta Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee and Tarundeep Rai — are enough to judge their calibre. While Talukdar became the first male archer to qualify for London, the team qualified for the Olympics at the last qualifying event in Ogden, USA, last month. Their qualification was rather dramatic as Banerjee had lost his gear on his way to Ogden. He was forced to shoot with equipment borrowed from his teammates and a few American archers. The chances of their qualification seemed bleak. But Banerjee, like a true hero, fought against all odds and helped his team bag an Olympics spot. The team is currently ranked third in the world and has won various medals in the World Cup stages in the past two years.
Confident of success in London, Limba Ram feels his wards would put up an excellent show at the Olympics. "All archers are in great form and have performed exceptionally well at all international competitions," Limba Ram told The Tribune. "They have been competing against the world's best players in the recent past and have outclassed them, which has added to their confidence. I can see my dream of an Olympics medal being fulfilled — finally!"
The archers are equally confident, though they would rather remain quiet and focus on the job at hand. Banerjee, individual champion at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, says they have done thorough groundwork in their attempts to make a mark in London.
"An Olympics medal is a common dream shared by all sportspersons and I am sure achieving it would be the happiest moment in a player's life. I am looking forward to my best moment!" said Tarundeep Rai, the first Indian to win an individual silver medal at the Asian Games.
interview: Deepika Kumari
The very mention of the Olympic Games is sufficient to give sleepless nights to the world's best sportspersons, but 18-year-old word champion Deepika Kumari's poise is remarkable. Usually shy and introverted, she's confidence personified when on the field, oblivious to all distractions. Born in the Ratu village in Jharkhand to nurse Geeta and Shiv Narayan Mahato, an autorickshaw driver, Deepika Kumari knew early where she wanted to be — at the Olympics, on the podium, kissing a yellow medal. Excerpts from an interview:
You're the first Indian woman to become the world No. 1 in archery. How confident are you about winning a medal in London?
It feels good but I am not counting on my world rank in London. It keeps on changing after a few tournaments. All I am focussing on is winning a gold medal. That is when I will actually believe that I have achieved the number one spot. It has been a dream ever since I began archery and I am confident of my chances.
This is your first Olympics, do you feel you're under pressure?
To be honest, there is no pressure. I'm treating it like just another international competition. We will be competing against known opponents, so it will not make much difference.
What special preparations did you make for the Olympics?
I've stuck to my usual training, just focusing on my shooting skills. I just want to make sure that when the time comes, I would be able to give my hundred per cent.
Will the weather in England play any significant role in the competition?
The weather plays an important role in archery and since the English weather is very unpredictable, it might affect shooting to an extent but we have learnt to deal with adverse situations.
How do you rate the medal prospects of our archers?
All the archers are at their best. If we go by the performance of both men and women archers in recent tournaments, we can expect a medal in each category we are competing in.
Each country is limited to 6 athletes (3 men, 3 women). In team events, there are 3 athletes in each team. Ten nations have qualified the maximum six archers for London, including India
The archery events are from July 27 to August 3
The Indians are contesting in all events. The men's team gold will be decided on July 28, women's on July 29. Indivdual golds would be decided on August 2 for women and August 3 for men
There are four events — men's individual and team, women's individual and team
Athletes shoot from 70m away. The targets are 122cm in diameter, the gold ring at the centre (worth 10 points) measuring 12.2cm
The archery events are played in a head-to-head elimination format
All athletes take part in a ranking round. Athletes must shoot 72 arrows in 12 phases of six arrows each, with each athlete allowed four minutes per phase. The total score of all 72 arrows determines the rankings of each athlete. These are used to make the seedings for both the individual and the team events
South Korea, with 16 of 32 gold on offer since the reintroduction of archery at Munich 1972
At Beijing 2008, South Korea Korea won 2 of the 4 gold available, China and Ukraine took the other 2
South Korea's Im Dong-Hyun, with an eyesight of 20/200, is legally blind but is a multiple gold medallist at the Olympics, World Championships and Asian Games
The first known archery competition was organised in Finsbury, London, in 1583. It attracted 3,000 participants
At Athens 2004, archers competed in the Panathinaiko Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896. The stadium was built on the ruins of an ancient stadium built in 329 BC
In the 14th century, archery was considered so important to the defence of the nation that an English law made it compulsory for every man aged between seven and 60
Archery featured in the Olympics in 1900-1908 and 1920 before being dropped. It was reintroduced after a 52-year gap at Munich 1972
Hollywood actress Geena Davis took part in US trials for Sydney 2000 team. She didn’t qualify but participated on a wild card and even made the semis
Ministry OK to ioa list
Scott shoots 64 for Open lead
Cook, trott punish south africa
Wiggins closer to title