Kolkata: The targets, 70 metres away, are not very clear as evening approaches and light from the towers gradually come on at the SAI Eastern Centre’s archery ground. Four archers aged between 23 and 27 — three of them Arjuna Award winners — are still all concentration. Soon, despite the lights, the targets are barely visible. But the training continues.
“During the day, our focus is on the target. But in the evening when the targets are barely visible, our focus shifts on the stance and release.
That is the time when we rectify errors. The night training stops as we approach a competition,” explained Rahul Banerjee, part of the three-member men’s recurve team for the Commonwealth Games.
The other two will be Tarundeep Rai and Jayanta Talukdar.
The fourth member, Mangal Singh Champia, who ranked second in the qualifying round at the Beijing Olympic Games, missed the cut by a whisker. But for him too, the training routine remains the same.
“It was eight to 10 hours of rigorous training every day without an off before the selection trials began on August 20.
Now, as we prepare to leave for Shanghai for the fourth leg of the World Cup (beginning on August 31), the intensity will slowly taper down.
“We have to ease out the training before competitions because if we don’t and miss practice because of travel, the muscles get stiff,” said Talukdar, who has an outside chance of qualifying for the World Cup grand final in Edinburgh next month despite skipping the third leg of the World Cup in Ogden, USA.
Both Banerjee and Talukdar were rested for the Ogden meet to give them time to adjust to their new bows.
But while Banerjee seems to have got into the groove, Talukdar had problems adjusting and has now shelved the bow. “I will resume training with it only after the Asian Games,” he said.
“The break we got by skipping the Ogden meet gave us valuable time to practice and, with the current form we are in, it will be disappointing if we do not win gold in Delhi,” a confident Talukdar said.
Enjoying a steep rise in form since the beginning of this year is Rai, a Subedar in the 58 Gorkha Regiment.
An archer for the past 14 years, the 26-year-old from Sikkim suffered a slump in 2007 but is back at his best now.
“Maturity in this sport means a lot. I was lost after the dip in form, but I dealt with it. I started to work harder and harder. It wasn’t easy to let go of a sport, which you had given more than a decade to and which has given you everything you have. Soon, my hard work began to bear fruit and now I am back,” Rai said.
National coach Limba Ram too was quietly confident. “If we get just one medal out of the 24 in archery, it’s going to be the men’s recurve team. The only thing to watch out for is how quickly Tarundeep can settle in with the rhythm of Jayanta and Rahul. This is where Tarundeep’s experience will come in handy,” Limba said.
Pareshnath Mukherjee, the Archery Association of India secretary, was slightly more circumspect.
“With the set system in place, it is difficult to predict a gold or silver. But I am confident the we will win at least 16 of the 24 medals on offer in archery.”