Their Olympic quota already booked, the Indian’s men’s recurve team reached the final of the World Archery Championships for the first time since 2005 after it shocked a formidable Netherlands in Den Bosch on Thursday.
The Indian team will be seeking its maiden title as it faces China in the summit clash on Sunday. China ousted top seed Korea 6-2 in the other semifinal Thursday.
A day after securing an Olympic berth three-man quota by making the quarterfinals, the India trio of Tarundeep Rai, Atanu Das and Pravin Jadhav held their nerves against hosts to come from behind and win 29-28 in the shoot-off for an overall score of 5-4.
This is the second time ever when the men’s recurve team reached the World Championships final. At Madrid 2005, the Indian team comprising Rai, Jayanta Talukdar and Gautam Singh had lost to Korea 232-244 in the summit clash.
The team, after their 5-3 win over Canada on Wednesday, produced back-to-back upsets to reach the final.
India overcame the second-seeded hosts 5-4 via a shoot-off in the semi-finals. It was a see-saw battle as India came back from behind on two occasions after losing the first and third set. In the shoot-off, Tarundeep and Pravin shot 10 each with Atanu’s 9 in the final shot giving them a 29-28 victory.
India will now play China in the final on Sunday.
In the compound women’s team section, third seeds India qualified for the bronze medal playoff after losing to seventh seeds USA in the semi-final. Jyoti Surekha Vennam, Muskan Kirar and Raj Kaur will take on Turkey in the playoff on Saturday.
In compound individual section, Jyothi qualified for the bronze medal playoff after losing out to Paige Pearce in the semi-final. She had earlier stunned the top seed Tanja Jensen in the fourth round. Jyothi will take on Turkey’s Yesim Bostan in her medal match.
The Indian men’s recurve team found a strong challenge from the second seeded home team led by world number two Steve Wijler, a bronze medallist two years ago in Mexico City. The other two players of Netherlands were 2016 Rio Olympics semifinalist Sjef van den Berg and London 2012 semifinalist Rick.
The Indians twice trailed in the match but spearheaded by Rai, who was a member of the silver winning team at the Madrid World Championship 14 years ago, the trio showed character to bounce back each time and forced the match to the shoot-off.
Using the conditions better than the home team, the Indians shot a near-perfect 29 out of 30 to edge out the Netherlands by one point. This was also for the first time since 2014 the Indian men’s team reached the final of a world event. India had ended up with a silver at the Wroclaw Stage IV World Cup in 2014 with Rai, Das and Jayanta Talukdar in the team.
The Indian team last won a gold in a World Cup event nine years ago at the World Cup Stage IV in Shanghai with Rai being a member of that team also.
“He’s our great motivation now. It’s a great moment for us,” Das said after the match, giving credit to senior teammate Rai.
“Last few years, I was struggling in all the three events – individual, mixed pair and team events. I was up to the mark but not able to put up any medal-winning show. I tried harder and harder and finally it happened.”
Asked about the summit clash against China, Das said, “We will give our best show. We are really proud.”
The Netherlands grabbed a 2-0 lead with two perfect 10s, including one X (closest to centre), to win the first set 56-54.
But the home team had a poor opening in the second set with scores of 6, 8 and 8 as the Indians seized the momentum to win 52-49 and bring the match on an even keel (2-2).
Not ready to give up easily, the Netherlands’ trio had a near flawless third set with one 10 and two Xs to snatch a 4-2 lead before winning by one point (57-56). The Indians then produced their best show of the match with four perfect 10s including two Xs to level the match 4-all for an exciting shoot-off finish.
On Wednesday, India booked a Tokyo Olympics berth after they had qualified for the quarter-finals with a 5-3 win over Canada in the second round game. Indian women’s recurve team suffered a shock defeat to Belarus in their second-round as they failed to secure an Olympic quota but will have another chance of making the cut in Berlin next year.
Clarification: The article originally mentioned India’s women’s team qualified for the bronze medal match by beating USA, but the team lost to the Americans in the semi-final. Error has been rectified.