Rio de Janeiro: With the men’s team failing to qualify, the troika of eves Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi Laishram and Laxmirani Majhi have their task cut out as they lead the Indian charge for the country’s first ever medal in Olympic Games archery at the arena in Rio from Friday.
Atanu Das is the sole male archer to qualify for the Games scheduled to start from 5 August. The contingent has been training at the Marica and shifted to a hotel which is close to the archery venue in Sambodromo. But now they have finally taken shelter in the Olympic Village ahead of the eight-day competition where 128 archers from 56 countries would participate. All the archers are highly rated and in good form, but then again India have lost on many occasions with stronger sides, failing to hold on to their nerves during crunch moments.
One of the major challenges for the Indian archers is that some of the matches may be held under lights. The Indian archers are not accustomed to shooting under lights, and their success would depend on how they cope with the conditions. The women’s team ranking round would take place on Friday, while the eliminations are scheduled for 7 August. The team final is slated to be held early on 8 August.
The Indian women would strive to keep their arrows on target in the individual elimination matches from 8 August, with the final fixed for the early hours of 12 August. After the 5 Aug men’s individual ranking competition, Das would shoot in the elimination rounds on 8 August. The gold medal would be decided early on 13 August, as per Indian timings.
India have never won a medal in archery at the Olympic Games despite having participated in every Olympics since 1988 and the contestants need to be at their very best to make history. The best performance by Indians so far was in 2004 and 2008 when the women’s team reached the quarter-finals in the team event. None of the individuals have made the last eight ever.
Last time around in London, the six-member team were ousted very early from the competition. Almost everyone fell ill during the tournament as they failed to get accustomed to the cold weather after practising in humid conditions in Kolkata. But this time the Archery Association of India (AAI) had sent the team here almost a month back so that they did not have problems of acclimatisation. They also trained in Bangalore prior to flying in here, as he weather conditions are identical.
Deepika and Bombayla Devi were part of the Olympics four years ago but it would be the maiden outing in the showpiece extravaganza for Majhi and Atanu, who would have to deal with the pressure of delivering on the big stage. India’s biggest hopes are pinned on the women’s team event where Bombayla would shoot first followed by Majhi and Deepika will play the role of the finisher.
Deepika has resorted to consulting sports psychologist Bhishmraj Bam and mental trainer Lorenzo Beltrame to help battle her mental demons. And it has borne fruit for the 22-year-old who has broken the world record twice in the trials and once equalled it in the World Cup in Shanghai, exactly 100 days before the Games.
“We have learnt to control our heartbeat amid tension and control our breathing while shooting,” Deepika said recently suggesting the London debacle won’t happen again.
The whole country would be rooting for a better performance from the archers who let them down last time.