India won four medals – three gold and a bronze – at the Archery World Cup Stage 1 in Guatemala City on Sunday night in their return to event after almost two years, capping the country’s best ever show at the tournament.
Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das led the show with two individual gold medals in recurve while the women’s team finished on top of the podium and the mixed pair won bronze .
This was former world No 1 Deepika’s third individual World Cup gold to add to the team’s triumph, while her husband Atanu Das won his first-ever World Cup individual medal. Deepika’s previous medals came at Antalya 2012 and Salt Lake City in 2018.
India started off with the women’s team of Deepika, Ankita Bhakat and Komalika Bari winning a team gold after seven years when they scripted a stunning turnaround to down Mexico 5-4 (27-26) in an intriguing shoot-off.
The performance rubbed off on the mixed pair duo of Das and Ankita Bhakat as they bagged a mixed pair bronze, upsetting top-seeded USA 6-2 with yet another fightback at the Sports Complex Los Arcos.
The highlight of India’s performance followed in the individual events, as the country’s top archers bagged two individual golds in their respective events.
Deepika, who was seeded third, produced yet another calm finish in an intense shoot-off to edge out USA’s eighth seed Mackenzie Brown 6-5 (9*-9) by hitting closer to the centre. In the semi-final, she had defeated her Mexican rival Alejandra Valencia 7-3.
Das then outclassed Spanish World Cup debutant Daniel Castro 6-4 to claim his first individual World Cup medal.
Das’ previous best in the individual section has been a fourth place finish at Antalya in 2016 where he lost to Kim Woojin in the bronze playoff. This was also India’s best-ever individual recurve men’s result since Jayanta Talukdar triumphed in Croatia way back in 2009.
How the finals played out
In the women’s recurve final, world No 6 Deepika was 3-1 up after two sets but saw that lead vanish after Brown evened the match with a 29 in the third and a 28 in the fourth.
The two-time Olympian, however, held her ground in the fifth, shooting a 29 and displaying the kind of resilience she’s oft been accused of lacking.
Deepika shot first and shot a nine, about one centimetre out of the 10-ring to the right. Brown’s arrow went left – and further out in the nine than Deepika’s.
That single arrow added a second gold on the day to complement the recurve women’s team gold India won over Mexico.
“The most difficult part was the heart-beating sound, which made me really nervous,” Deepika said, mimicking a heartbeat for emphasis.
“It’s been a long time since I shot in the finals. It feels great and, at the same time, I’m happy and nervous. It gives me confidence and pushes me to give better performances,” she added.
In the men’s final, trailing after three sets in the final against Castro, Das flicked a switch.
He closed with a 29 and a 30 – shooting his last 10 before his opponent had finished, putting the match out of reach and sealed the issue with a punch in the air.
Earlier, Das had one wild set of 26 points in his semi-final win Mexican Angel Alvarado, who won mixed team gold this morning, but otherwise shot sets of 28, 29 and a closing excellent 30 points in a four-set victory.
“It feels amazing. It’s like dreams are coming true. I have worked for so many years and now this is paying off. This is my first title and I’m very happy,” Das said.
On his perfect last set to take gold, he said, “I just gave my best and was present. I didn’t think about the future or the past, just present.”
“It’s beautiful. It’s a big boost for me ahead of the Olympics. I’m working in the right way,” Das, who will be shooting in his second Olympics at Tokyo, signed off with a big smile.
In the women’s team final, Deepika Kumari shot a perfect 10 in the final arrow as India scripted a stunning turnaround.
Returning to the World Cup after almost two years, the Indian team, who are yet to clinch an Olympic team quota, trailed 2-4 after the third set.
But the trio showed perfect composure to bounce back in the fourth set before clinching the issue 5-4 (27-26) in the shoot-off en route to their first women’s recurve team gold since 2014.
In the shoot-off, Ankita started off with a nine, while the 19-year-old Komalika drifted away with an eight as it was down to Deepika versus her more fancied rival Aida Roman, the 2012 London Olympics silver medallist, in the final arrow.
The Indian held her nerves and drilled a perfect 10 as Aida, needing a nine to prolong the shoot-off, cracked under pressure and shot eight.
This was India’s fifth recurve women’s team gold in World Cup having won it previously in Shanghai-2011, Medellin-2013, Wroclaw-2013 and 2014 with Deepika winning her fifth.
“It feels good to win a gold medal after seven years,” Deepika said after the win.
Yet to win a team quota for the Olympics, the win will bolster their confidence ahead of the final qualification event on the sidelines of World Cup Stage 3 in Paris in June.
“I was nervous but thankfully I managed to do well. I’m sure this confidence will help us seal a team quota in Paris,” Komalika, the reigning under-18 world champion, said.
The top seeded Indians had a flying start to the final as they shot three 10s including one X (closest to the centre) to take the first set 57-56. But the Mexican trio of Aida, Ana Vazquez and Alejandra Valencia made a spirited comeback shooting 57 in the second set to edge out the Indians by two points to make it two-all.
Aida spearheaded the Mexican challenge well and hit a perfect 10 in the final arrow of the third set to snatch a 4-2 lead leaving India nothing short of a win in the fourth set.
India did not buckle under pressure and started the fourth set with Ankita drilling a perfect 10, followed by Komalika’s nine. Deepika then rounded the first set of arrows with a perfect 10 to take a two-point lead at the halfway mark.
Maintaining their consistency, the trio then shot 10-9-10 as the third seeded Mexicans cracked under pressure to lose the fourth set by five points for the ensuing shoot-off.
In the mixed pair bronze playoff, India trailed 0-2 after the first set but Das and Ankita complemented well in the second and third set to clinch the issue. Ankita shot two of the three 10s in the second set, while Das stepped it up in the third set with two 10s to down USA.
With PTI Inputs