Archery has been one of the mainstays at the Olympics in the recent past, with the discipline gaining popularity in India since the nation made its first appearance in 1988. During the Seoul Games (1988), Shyam Lal, Limba Ram and Sanjeev Singh featured in individual as well as team events, but none could get past the opening round.
The women’s team have been the closest to claiming a medal at the Olympics, securing quarter-final finishes at the 2004 Athens and the 2016 Rio Games respectively. But that does not reflect the true picture of Indian archers on the global stage over the past decade or so.
Despite stepping in as probable medal contenders in each of the last three editions of the Olympics, the Indian contingent has fallen short of a podium-finish. Going by the recent form and performance during the recently concluded World Cup Stage I in Guatemala City, the 2021 Tokyo Games is by far the best chance to break the jinx at the spectacle.
India’s top contenders for a medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics
The athlete is arguably the most deserving medal prospect in the Indian contingent for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. It is unfortunate that Deepika Kumari failed to reach the quarter-finals at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics, even though she was featured as one of the favorites to clinch the gold medal.
While the first-round exit in London mostly boiled down to the wind factor, Deepika’s pursuit in South America came to a halt in the round-of-16 against Chinese Taipei’s Tan Ya-tin.
Four years down the line, she has developed as an archer, having worked on various mental aspects of the game to avoid stage-fright. In addition to that, the Ranchi-based archer also claimed a gold medal in the recently concluded World Cup Stage I, in Guatemala City.
With the Stage 2 and Stage 3 editions of the World Cup scheduled for May and June respectively, Deepika Kumari will use them to sharpen her skills further ahead of the Tokyo showdown. The women’s individual ranking round at the Olympics will kick-off on July 23 at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field, in Tokyo.
Atanu Das, who started his career at the age of 14, might not have enjoyed as glamorous a career as his team-member-turned-wife Deepika Kumari, but he’s done enough to earn himself a medal at the Olympics.
It was his Bronze medal win alongside Deepika Kumari at the 2013 World Cup in the mixed team event that made the fraternity take note of the archer. He followed it up with four medals in the 2014 World Cup, a couple of wins in Medellin and another in Wroclaw.
Despite his exploits at team events, Atanu Das was the lone entrant from India in the men’s individual event in Archery at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Having scripted dominating wins over Jitbahadur Muktan (Nepal) and Adrian Andres Puentes (Cuba) in the first two rounds, the Indian lost to South Korea’s LeeSeung-Yun in the round-of-16 to crash out of the mega-event.
Atanu Das claimed top honors in the men’s individual recurve event at the 2021 World Cup Stage I in Guatemala City a few days back, setting the tone for the Olympics, which is less than 100 days away. The Kolkata-based athlete will also feature in the men’s team event alongside veteran archer Tarundeep Rai, and Pravin Jadhav.
Special Mention: India Women's Team
The Indian women’s team, comprising of Deepika Kumari, Ankita Bhakat and Komalika Bari, also claimed a gold medal in the 2021 World Cup Stage I, but are yet to qualify for the Olympics as a team. If they do manage to secure a quota, India’s medal winning probability will get a further boost, with all three archers in tremendous form in the build-up to the Games.