Archers confident of rich medals haul in Games

September 10th, 2010 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sirshendu Panth

New Delhi, Sep 10 (IANS) Having sparkled in top rated tourneys like World Cups, Indian archers are hoping to hit the bull’s eye in their quest for a medals bounty on home turf in the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games, where the sport makes a comeback after 28 years.

Of the 24 medals, including eight gold, that are up for grabs, the hosts are expecting a haul of between 12 and 16 medals, mainly from the recurve bow section where Indian archers tower over the rest of the field in rankings.

The Indian team management also hopes for a good showing in the other event - compound - but concedes that the challenge from the rivals was formidable.

Once branded as “chokers” for being tigers at practice and cats in contests, the Indian competitors have come a long way since the Archery Association of India (AAI) decided to do away with the camps-only preparation ahead of any mega event. Instead, its annual calendar is now dotted with tournaments through the year, with camps keeping the players engaged during the breaks.

While seasoned Satyadev Prasad came tantalisingly close to upsetting the top seed on the last arrow in the Athens Olympics pre-quarter finals, he looked a bundle of nerves and lost that contest six years back with a wayward shot as his hands quivered. The archers of 2010 now seem high on confidence and concentration, and look tough nuts mentally.

And this is a big plus in the overtly psychological game of bow and arrow.

“Earlier, there was not much international exposure. But we have been playing highest rated tournaments and winning many of them since 2007. This has raised our confidence level and given us the mental toughness to take on the world’s best,” recurve archer Rahul Banerjee, world number 16, told IANS.

The Indians begin as tournament favourites in recurve, where four gold medals will be decided at the newly constructed Yamuna Sports Complex.

The Indian men are now the highest ranked team in the world, leaving behind famed sides like South Korea, Italy, the US and China, none of whom would be seen in the competition that is restricted among the Commonwealth member-states.

India’s closest rival in the Games on current rankings are world No. 8 Great Britain (that will take part as three member nations England, Scottland and Wales).

In individual section, Jayanta Talukdar is world number five and the umero uno ranked player in the competition. Tarundeep Rai is world No. 24.

The troika of Talukdar, Rai and Banerjee seem to be in high spirits after annexing the gold in the World Cup archery Stage IV meet at Shanghai last week.

“In team competition we should get the gold. We have been consistently churning out good scores. We should also do quite well in the individual events, but here it all depends on the condition of the individual player at that point of time,” said Rahul.

In women’s recurve, the Indians will again be the top team in fray, with a world ranking of six, ten rungs above nearest challengers Great Britain.

The women’s challenge will be spearheaded by seasoned campaigner world No.10 Dola Banerjee, whose experience would cast a calming effect on the other two younger members of the side - 16-year-old Deepika Kumari and 25-year-old Laishram Bombayla Devi.

Dola, 30, the only Indian to win the World Cup final by claiming the honours in 2007 at Dubai, seemed confident.

“After Dubai, I had a couple of bad seasons. But towards the end of last year my performance improved. Now I feel I am in top shape. I am confident about a medal,” she said.

Jharkhand teenage sensation Deepika Kumari has rocketed to world number four after her silver medal finish at Shanghai, and tops the pool of competitors in the Games.

Deepika, daughter of an autorickshaw driver, has overcome poverty and family resistance to become the cadet world champion last year, and needs to keep her cool to perform up to expectation before the home crowd at the 1500-capacity stadium next month.

“On current form, we should make a clean sweep of the recurve medals. We have had a very satisfying tune-up that included top flight tournaments on foreign soil,” AAI secretary general Paresh Nath Mukherjee told IANS.

“The minimum medals we expect from archery are 12, and the maximum 16. In compound, though, we have to fight for every medal,” said Mukherjee.

However, England, Canada, Australia and Malaysia could well give Indian archers strong competition in recurve.

In the compound category, national champions C.Srither and Jhanu Hansda will lead the challenge in the men’s and women’s sections, but South Africa, Australia, Canada and Malaysia could pose tough challenges.

The Indian team is scheduled to reach Delhi Sept 23 to practice at the venue for about 10 days ahead of the competition.

Asked whether India stood the risk of losing out on the home advantage with such a short stint at the competition venue in a sport where conditions like wind strength were vital, Mukherjee replied in the negative.

“Delhi is not a foreign land. We all know about its climate condition. So 10 days is adequate,” he said.

The squad.

Recurve (men): Tarundeep Rai, Jayanta Talukdar and Rahul Banerjee

Recurve (women): Dola Banerjee, L. Bombayla Devi and Deepika Kumari

Compound (men): C. Srither, Ch. Jignas and Ritul Chatterjee

Compound (women): Jhano Hansdah, Gagandeep Kaur and Bheigyabati Chanu

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