During the Indian squad's preparation for the 2004 Athens Olympics, if an archer scored 1300 out of a possible 1440 in the Fita round (now known as the ranking round), he became the talking point of the SAI Eastern Centre, a long-time address of the national camp. Today, archers regularly score around 1350 to 1365 over the 70m distance.
Does it mean that most of them, including the women, are better than the likes of Limba Ram, Shyamlal and Satyadev Prasad? It’s not easy to say because like in cricket and other sports, equipment has evolved, which has helped the scores. But strangely, over the last nine years, the coaching and training methods have remained the same.
“High definition cameras can track the arrow just at the point of release. This helps in the perfect tuning of the bow, which is crucial,” says archer Rahul Banerjee.
But India do not have a video analyst. They had Sasi Shroff working with the team some years back but his services were discontinued after repeated requests for the gadgets and software went unheeded. London 2012 report cardLIM’s THE MAN
Dola Banerjee, her brother Rahul, Jayanta Talukdar, Bombayla Devi, Chekrovolu Swuro and even Tarundeep Rai, the last five were part of India's 2012 Olympic campaign, swear by Korean coach Lim Chae Woon, who is now with the Army Sports Institute in Pune. But ever since he left the camp six years back, complaining of the lack of trainees, he has not been asked to rejoin his wards. At that camp, only Dola and Reena Kumari, both from the Railways, turned up as most of the others were training with their institutions.
The Archery Association of India (AAI) had not forced the archers to join the national camp and Lim left to join the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur. Now, more than ever, the archers want him back.
Earlier, national ranking meets were held thrice every year, because of the initiative of Pareshnath Mukherjee, who now wants to resign from the federation's general secretary's post. But none have been held since 2007.
“The three ranking meets and nationals used to be the stepping stone for new archers. Now with just one national meet, the window for talent coming through to challenge the already identified is too small,” says Dola.
So, even though Pawan Xalxo is the current national champion, along with Deepika Kumari, India knows only about the latter. Young archers like Rimil Buriuly, Atanu Das and Thupovoi Swuro are the ones who can stake a claim at Rio, but this pool has to increase as they too need to work hard to upstage the seniors and get into the team.