Mixed year for Indian archers as slump in recurve continues

KOLKATA :  Indian archers had their share of hits and misses but the sport made little headway on the whole as they continued their slump in recurve section in 2014, a trend that doesn’t augur too well with the Rio Olympics less than two years to go.
Recurve being the only competitive category at the Olympics, Indian’s steady decline should be a cause of concern, as six quota places for Rio would be up for grabs in the World Championships, slated to be held in Copenhagen from July 26 to August 2 next year.
On paper, however, 2014 was a feel good year for Indian archery as the arrow shooters, bolstered by the inclusion of compound section at the Incheon Asian Games, had their best ever show — one gold, one silver and two bronze.
All the medals came in the compound section, even as the recurve archers, who had bagged one silver and two bronze at the 2010 Asian Games Guangzhou, drew a blank in Incheon.
Abhishek Verma was the star of Incheon archery contingent, bagging one team gold and one individual silver.
Deepika Kumari and Co’s failure in the recurve section was somewhat compensated when Uttar Pradesh boy Atul Verma won a bronze in men’s individual recurve event at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.
The 17-year-old from Barabanki beat Turkey’s Mete Gozoz 6-4 (29-28 30-29 27-27 29-30 29-29) in the play-off to give Indian archery the best moment of the year on August 26.
Summing up the feat, the sport’s first Dronacharya Sanjeeva Singh said: “We have had medals at the World, Asian and Commonwealth level but an Olympic medal was eluding us. Not anymore, this should inspire the youngsters in the years to come.”
Coming from UP Sports Hostel in Sonbhadra, a town 108kms away from Banaras, Verma was picked by the Army’s Olympic grooming centre (ASI) in Pune. But now it would be a challenge for him to graduate to next level with the Archery Association of India seeming to have lost focus in the recurve section.
The decline of the former world No. 1 recurve archers had begun after New Delhi Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2010, but it was the Ranchi teenage sensation Deepika Kumari who had kept the country’s flag flying high by being a notch higher than the rest.
But the worst fear came true in 2014 as the three-time ‘World Cup Final’ silver medallist had a terrible year and even struggled to make the cut in the India team.
The former double gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games had failed to qualify for the national team for the World Cup Stage I and III, something that had cost India dear.
India had begun the year returning empty-handed from the Shanghai World Cup, and in the next edition at Colombia they bagged one silver and a bronze.
A new look Indian recurve team in Sanjay Boro, Atanu Das and Thupuvoyi Swuro bagged the team silver, while the mixed pair of Bombayla Devi Laishram and Das won bronze.
India had two silver and a bronze in the World Cup Stage III in Turkey, courtesy two medals in the compound section.
Rajat Chauhan clinched silver, while the team of Lily Chanu, Purvasha Shende and Trisha Deb settled for bronze in the compound section.
Recurve mixed pair of Jayanta Talukdar and Bombayla bagged the second silver in Turkey.
After much experiment in the first three editions, the Archery Association of India finally brought back their experienced recurve archers — Deepika along with Asian Games silver medallist Tarundeep Rai and Commonwealth Games gold winner Rahul Banerjee — for the last World Cup and the Incheon-bound Asian Games squad.
Having struggled with her equipment, Deepika, who had slipped to No 16 in rankings, turned back to her old coach Dharmendra Tiwari and her alma mater, Tata Archery Academy, for the year-ender World Cup in Poland.
The result was India’s best show of the year with one gold, two silver and two bronze with the Jharkhand girl winning a gold and two bronze.
The result, however, was not enough for Deepika to qualify for the World Cup Final for a fourth time on the trot and she had a disappointing ninth place finish in the Asian Games after losing in the 1/8 elimination round.
In the team event, the women’s trio of Deepika, Bombayla and Laxmirani Majhi were blanked 0-6 by hosts South Korea in the semifinals before they lost the bronze playoff to Japan.
Men’s heavyweight Jayanta Talukdar, too, was ousted in the 1/8 elimination and it was the compound archers who had ensured that the India’s national anthem was played at the Gyeyang Asiad Archery Field.
There was another sweet victory for India as the trio of Abhishek Verma, Rajat Chauhan and Sandeep Kumar edged out hosts by two points en route to the yellow metal in the 17th edition of the Games.
Verma was in the run for a second gold but he lost out to Esmaeil Ebadi of Iran in the compound individual final to settle for a silver.
All eyes would be on the first two Stages of the World Cup in Shanghai and Antalya in a hectic month of May next year as the recurve archers would look to put the disappointment of 2014 behind and take a fresh aim. (AGENCIES)


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