India is no stranger to the sport of archery. We all have heard the tale of Arjun winning the hand of Draupadi in marriage after using a bow and arrow to aim for a fish’s eye despite only looking at the target’s reflection in water in the epic tale of Mahabharat.
Despite making her Olympic debut in 1988, India never looked serious contenders until an 18-year-old Deepika Kumari became World No. 1 in 2012 and raised the hopes of a billion people ahead of the London Olympics. The less said about the debacle at the 2012 Olympic Games the better, though, as the 6-member Indian archery contingent collectively failed under pressure.
This time, India has sent out 4 archers and despite last edition’s horrendous show, Archery is one of India’s best bets for an Olympic medal. Deepika Kumar, Laxmirani Majhi, Bombayla Devi, and Atanu Das will be shouldering over a billion expectations when they get into the thick of the action at the Sambadrome – the venue for archery at Rio.
The 4 archers, who have decided to skip the Opening Ceremony in order to focus on getting India her first ever Olympic medal in the sport, will be in action from the very first day. So, without further ado, let’s analyse the Indian Archery contingent for the 2016 Olympics:
Team Composition – In the women’s category, India have sent out her 3 best archers to participate in the team and individual events. 31-year-old Bombayla Devi may be ranked a lowly 69 in the world, but her experience is second to none and she has been India’s most consistent archer in recent times. 27-year-old Laxmirani Majhi will be shooting the second arrow in the team events for India and the World No. 15, making her Olympic debut, would be an important asset to the team.
There is no doubt that the star of the show is 22-year-old Deepika Kumari, who will be taking the third shot in the team’s event. The World No. 12 from Jamshedpur had broken the World Record twice in the trials before equalling it exactly 100 days before the Games. With the perfect amalgamation of youth and experience, the team looks extremely strong on paper with each player covering the others’ shortcomings.
Preparation – At Rio, the Indian archers will be aching to erase the 4-year-old memory and in order to make sure the debacle doesn’t repeat, they have left no stone unturned in their preparations. From training in windy and cooler conditions in Bangalore to reaching Brazil 1 month before the tournament to acclimatise themselves, they’ve made sure getting used to the conditions will not be an issue.
Hiring eminent mental trainer Lorenzo Beltrame (worked with Pete Sampras and Jim Courier) and roping in respected sports psychologist Bhishmraj Bam is a positive move for a team which choked miserably in London. With yoga sessions also part of their training routine, the Indian team is leaving nothing to chance as they aim to erase the demons from London.