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India?s quiverful of dreams

India might have never won an archery medal in the Asian Games, but this could very well change in Doha, writes Khurram Habib.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2006 21:29 IST

India might have never won an archery medal in the Asian Games, but this could very well change in Doha.

Despite having a rich tradition in archery, both in history and mythology, India have not been able to leave a mark in the Asian Games, this despite the fact that India played a key role in the inclusion of archery in the Games roster.

Since the sport’s induction in the 1978 Games, India’s performance has never been anything to write home about; not even Limba Ram at the height of his glory could replicate his Asian Championships gold-winning performance in the Asian Games.

The only time India came close to a medal was in 1986 in Seoul when Pradeep Kundu missed the bronze by one point. Those were the times when, instead of the four events of today, there were 12 events and the chances of striking a medal were relatively high.

The sport has developed rapidly over the last two decades, with great advances in equipment and technique. Countries like Bhutan, once a powerhouse, have found to their chagrin that unless you invest in equipment and scientific training, medal hopes in a more fiercely competitive environment of today are easily dashed.

For archery aficionados, though they may not exist in great numbers in these parts, Indian archery seen a resurgence on two occasions: First from 1989 to 1992, often called the ‘Limba Ram period’, and then from 2003 to now, when the likes of Dola Banerjee have matured while the likes of Jayanta Talukdar have soared rapidly.

Significantly, the current rise of Indian archery holds out more promise than the ‘Limba Ram period’, simply because the country has good archers in greater numbers. In short, its quality supply base is wider.

Since the 2003 World Championships, the Indian archers have been doing consistently well. Apart from an odd jarring note in between —- like the drama of coach Lim Chae Woong taking on the Archery Association —- the going has been smooth.

The icing was provided by Jayanta Talukdar, who won a gold at the Porec edition of the World Championships earlier this year, finishing fourth in the final rankings for the year. He even equalled the 70m world record score of 347 at the recent Commonwealth Championships at Jamshedpur.

While individual brilliance could be relied upon to fetch a medal, most particularly in the case of Jayanta, it is in the team events where India’s hopes rest.

All eight archers —- men and women —- have been shooting scores that can fetch a medal. While it won’t be wrong to say that the men could give even the Koreans a run for their money for the gold, Indian women would most likely, with their current best performances, get a silver or a bronze.

To gauge their chances, taking an example from the FITA round (though a different format will be used in Asiad) the Koreans have archers who all can score above 1330, particularly women. India, on the other hand, score 1320-24 in both sections.

The Indian men definitely have a strong chance. Japan is inconsistent —- a couple are very good while the others just make up numbers —- and Chinese Taipei are consistent but they usually hit lower scores, while China are strong but again, they suffer from inconsistency.

That leaves South Korea, and all Indian archers need to overcome them is to fire well together.

In the women’s section, South Korea have generally been unbeatable, but India just to need look at Asian Championships in New Delhi for inspiration, when China got the better of the Koreans.

Team

Men's: Jayanta Talukdar, Tarundeep Rai, Vishwas, Mangal Singh.

Women's: Dola Banerjee, Reena Kumari, Chekrowolu Swuro, Punyaprabha.