Deepika Kumari, Chekrovolu Swuro and L Bombayla Devi will be the face of India at the archery venue, at least till the London Olympics next year. Quietly evading the media glare and bearing the burden of expectations, the trio qualified for the Games. En route, they created history by winning a maiden World Championships silver, beating the formidable Koreans to enter the final, which was another first.
The qualification means that the women have earned a team berth for India for the third consecutive time. They qualified for Athens, Beijing and now London. And for the first time in eight years, the common factor — Dola Banerjee — will be missing the action.
A Consistent teamDola suffered a dip in form soon after the Asian Games and failed to make it to the World Championships in Turin, her chronic back problem making it worse.
Gold in the team championships of the Delhi Commonwealth Games, followed by a bronze at the Guangzhou Asian Games, regular success at World Cups and now the World Championships silver speak volumes about the consistency of this team.
The success of the team had led the Archery Association of India to announce that the four who have secured Olympic berths — the three women and Jayanta Talukdar — will represent India at the Games unless there is a drastic drop in form.
This clause will definitely keep Chekrovolu on her toes. The Nagaland archer has been part of the three teams that won Olympic berths, starting from the New York World Championships in 2003.
But Chekrovolu (her name means Big Family) is yet to feature in an Olympic team, every time losing form just before the Games. “Anga’s (Chekrovolu’s nickname) consistency has been a point of concern and this time I have told her to forget about everything else and just shoot,” said Poornima Mahato, one of the four coaches working under national coach Limba Ram at the camp at SAI’s Eastern Centre.
Consistency will be the key because there is almost a year left to the Games and holding on to the rhythm is what the trio is faced with at the moment. “We plan to take four to five days breaks in between but we cannot afford longer breaks from training because that hampers our form drastically,” said Bombayla.
Deepika doesn’t care about form and rhythm. Her philosophy is simple. “I love archery and enjoy shooting. If you think you are training, you will feel tired and fatigue is not good for archery. I think I am off studies and playing. So, I enjoy all the time,” giggled the 17-year-old girl, only to be joined by her team-mates in spontaneous laughter.
Smiling in the face of severe pressure is nothing new for these girls, and the Korean team would also vouch for that.
National camp continues in poor conditions
Following a protest by archers, who complained of poor food and pathetic living conditions at the hostel, the SAI headquarters in New Delhi had, on June 9, issued the transfer orders for S Harmilapi, regional director of the SAI Eastern Centre.
An internal probe by executive director (operations), Joe Sebastian, followed and based on his report, Harmilapi’s transfer was ordered.
Roque Dias of SAI, Patiala, was supposed to take charge, but sources told HT that he is not willing to come to Kolkata. As things stand, it seems Harmilapi will be in charge till his retirement in November.
Archers, requesting anonymity, said the moment the transfer orders were issued, the conditions improved.
But now that Harmilapi is here to stay, things had again deteriorated. “R1000 for the pathetic rooms we live in is exorbitant. We can easily get better hotel rooms at this price. The water in the swimming pool stinks and it is visibly dirty,” said an archer.
Hopefully, when Harmilapi retires, SAI will name someone who’d be willing to take charge here. Till then, the probe and its follow-up appear to be hogwash.