For Indian archers at the Olympics, history hasn’t been kind. It has been the site of their disappointment over the years but hope is renewed once more ahead of their Tokyo Games campaign with the rankings round starting on Friday.
Notwithstanding the women’s team’s failure to qualify, the quartet of Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav enter the mega-event with expectations of winning the country’s first Olympic medal in the sport.
But pre-tournament hopes in archery have often counted for little at the Games.
Indian archery team for Tokyo 2020
|Atanu Das||Men's individual|
|Pravin Jadhav||Men's individual|
|Tarundeep Rai||Men's individual|
|Atanu Das, Pravin Jadhav, Tarundeep Rai||Men's team|
|Deepika Kumari||Women's individual|
|Atanu Das, Deepika Kumari||Mixed team|
Since the 1988 Games, India have produced many champions in the sport with the likes of Limba Ram and then Dola Banerjee winning at all levels except at the Olympics.
Jayanta Talukdar had become a world number two in 2006, while Dola had raised the bar in 2007 by becoming the world champion, but there was little to show for it at Beijing 2008.
What followed was a meteoric rise of Deepika, who turned many heads around at a young age of 15, by winning the Youth World Championships in 2009 and then bagging two gold at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games next year.
But in London 2012, she made a first-round exit as a full strength Indian side failed to make an impact. And the outing was no better in Rio de Janeiro four years later.
Renewed hopes in Tokyo
The biggest prospects now in 2021 are the husband-wife duo of Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari who would look to recreate the magic of the Paris World Cup in the mixed pair competition that would make its Games debut on Saturday at the Yumenoshima Park.
Competing in her third successive Olympics, two-time world No. 1 Deepika has seen it all, from the lows of London to hitting rock-bottom at Rio 2016 and the highs on the World Cup circuit.
Five years down the line, the firebrand archer from Ranchi is in the form of her life having already won five World Cup gold medals in 2021.
Wiser and perhaps more daring, Deepika’s biggest challenge would be to overcome the Koreans, who are both mentally and physically strong.
“It’s very important because Indian archery does not have an Olympic medal so I want to win,” Deepika told World Archery ahead of the Games.
“I want to prove to myself that I can win. So it’s very important for me, my entire archery team and my country. At my first Olympics, I was ranked world number one, though I was not aware of it much. It was kind of a fantasy for me being the first Olympics,” she said.
Back as world No 1 after winning successive World Cup gold medals this year, Deepika added: “A lot has changed since then... I’ve worked really hard mentally which is giving me a lot of positive results.
“I was left very much behind at the last two Olympics, so I’m working on that and building my confidence with it. I’m continuously trying to better my performance.”
In the absence of defending champion Chang Hye Jin who failed to make the cut, Deepika’s biggest threat is Kang Chae Young, who would have been the world No. 1 if the Olympics were held in 2020.
The promising 20-year-old An San, who had beaten Deepika in straight sets en route to win the gold at the Tokyo 2020 Test Event in July 2019, would also pose a big challenge.
Having qualified for the first time since 2012, the Indian men’s team also offers some promise and it would be a big achievement, should they make the last-four.
Comprising veteran Army archer Tarundeep Rai, Das and the promising Pravin Jadhav, the men’s team won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2019 to book its place at the Olympics.
Rai is competing in his third Olympics since making his debut at Athens 2004, while Das will make his second appearance after Rio.
The world rankings don’t give the correct picture as neither Korea nor Chinese Taipei, China and Japan really competed internationally since the second half of 2019.
All four of these nations will be at full strength in the Japanese capital and it remains to be seen whether the Indians are able to overcome the Asian threat and the familiar pressure of being at the Olympics.
Schedule on July 23 (Archery)
|Archery||5:30||Deepika Kumari||Yumenoshima Ranking Field||Women's Individual Ranking Round|
|9:30||Atanu Das Pravin JadhavTarundeep Rai||Yumenoshima Ranking Field||Men's Individual Ranking Round|
Mixed team hopes
The mixed team is arguably the best bet for a podium finish for India. A total of 16 teams will make the cut from the 29 countries competing. The cutoff will be based on the qualification scores of the respective archers on Friday. The top ranked woman and the top ranked man from each NOC will pair up in the knockout phase that starts with the round of 16.
While Korea, like in all events, will be favourites, India should fancy their chances to do well. A good qualification round will be crucial for Deepika and, in all likelihood, Atanu Das.
Here’s a sample of how the event works:
Schedule overview for India:
July 23, Friday: Qualification rounds
July 24, Saturday: Mixed team eliminations followed by medal matches
July 26, Monday: Men’s team eliminations followed by medal matches
July 27, Tuesday: Men’s and women’s individual eliminations (1/32, 1/16)
July 28, Wednesday: Men’s and women’s individual eliminations (1/32, 1/16)
July 29, Thursday: Men’s and women’s individual eliminations (1/32, 1/16)
July 30, Friday: Women’s individual eliminations (1/8, QF, SF) and medal matches
July 31, Saturday: Men’s individual eliminations (1/8, QF, SF) and medal matches
(With PTI inputs)
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.