The archery season for the year 2017 starts on Wednesday with India’s Olympians looking to make a strong comeback after a relatively quiet performance at the Rio Olympics 2016.
Shanghai will host the first leg of the Archery World Cup from 17 to 21 May, followed by legs in Antalya, Turkey and Salt Lake City in June and Berlin in August. The final will be held in Rome in September.
The city proved to be the luckiest stop on the Tour for the Indians last year, with three of the four medals that they won in 2016 coming in Shanghai. The men’s recurve trio of Atanu Das, Jayanta Talukdar and Mangal Singh Champia won a bronze in the team section.
The women went one better as Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Laxmirani Majhi won silver, losing out to the Chinese Taipei team. Kumari and Das also brought home the recurve team bronze for India.
The Indian contingent didn’t win another medal till they reached Antalya where Das and Kumari won a recurve team silver. Shanghai present the ideal conditions for archers, with temperature and wind speed just perfect for high scores to be piled up.
Deepika highest ranked in contingent
At 22, Deepika Kumari has racked up an impressive list of credentials to her name, with two junior World titles and has been runner at the Archery World Cup final four times in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 but has never won the gold at an individual World Cup stage or the finals.
Kumari, who won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in Delhi at the age of 16, is a former World no 1 and has taken part in two Olympics. Deepika will return to the scene of her World record score, where equalled Kim Bo-Bae’s 686, a score that has been shot in the ranking round only three times in history.
As with most of her senior career, Kumari’s inconsistency showed as she could only finish fifth in Shanghai despite the world record score. A sub-par performance at the Olympics where she finished ninth overall, meant that Kumari missed the World Cup final, where only the top seven ranked archer along with one host nation archer take part.
“There’s a gap between silver and gold and that’s what I’m figuring out now. I need to identify and understand everything I need to win and not just remain with the silver. I want to win and become a world champion. I really want to,” Deepika said in a recent interview to worldarchery.org.
Currently the highest ranked recurve Indian, man or woman at 13th, if Kumari can break the knockout stage hoodoo, the 22-year old may look forward to making her sixth World Cup final appearance.
Atanu Das the dark horse
The only Indian male archer at the Olympics, if 2016 was Atanu’s breakout year on the tour, 2017 could be even better with some expecting Das to win a World Cup stage.
His bronze medal match against reigning World record holder for the ranking round, Kim Woo-jin at World Cup stage in Antalya was an absolute nail-biter with Das pushing the heavyweight Korean all the way.
The 25-year old ranked 15th in the World, is primed to break into the top seven and qualify for the World Cup final, having shot a sensational 683 in the ranking round at Rio to be seeded fifth. Das went on to finish ninth overall and is a cool hand, winning four team medals at the World Cup so far.
How far can Atanu go? In a strong field with 2012 London Olympic champion Oh Jin Hyek and two-time World Cup final champion Woojin, both from South Korea, lining up, it will be anything but easy.
South Koreans the ones to beat
The real strength of the South Korean team is a mystery as high internal competition for places always seems to bring out the best in their archers.
The biggest shock even before the tournament has begun, is the absence of reigning Olympic recurve champion Ku Bon-Chan who finished 10th in a national selection round of 16 participants and didn’t even make it to the national camp.
London champion Oh made his return to the squad of four after missing out in the national trials last year as South Korea swept the four golds at Rio. Six of the eight person-strong squad are Olympic medallists with world record holder, London women’s champ and Rio bronze holder Kim Bo-Bae just about making the squad.
Woojin is the only survivor on the men’s side from Rio. The women’s team is pretty much as expected as last year’s Olympic team gold winners are ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the world. South Korea are definitely the ones to beat.