The Seo Hyang Soon Archery Center in Gwangju, South Korea, about three hours by flight from Incheon, has been home to the Indian archery squad for the past three weeks. According to Tarundeep Rai, silver medallist in men’s individual recurve bow at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, the archers have settled down to the time difference. While most of them are relishing the Korean cuisine with coach Lim Chae Woong helping bridge the language barrier, the vegetarians in the squad too have found an Indian restaurant close by. With food, language and time lag taken care of, the 16-archer squad that will compete in 10 events is already feeling at home, Rai told HT through an online messaging platform.
Besides, the Indian team is also training along side South Korea’s women’s double-Olympic champion Kim Bae Bo as they are training at her club.
However, the Indian recurve archers are unlikely to feel the same level of comfort as far as the format is concerned. The rankings will be decided through a traditional FITA round. It means the archers will have to shoot 144 arrows over 90m, 70m, 50m and 30m. For women, the distances will be 70m, 60m, 50m and 30m.
Only the top two archers from each country will be able to take part in the individual event while the top three will constitute the team. The top ranked archers in the men’s and women’s sections will form the mixed team.
Rahul Banerjee, who won gold in the men’s individual recurve at the 2010 CWG in Delhi, feels the restriction puts lot of pressure in the FITA round itself. “You want your other three teammates to do well so that India’s team ranking goes up and you pick relatively weaker opponents in the knockout round. But at the same time, you are also competing with them. If the other three are better, you are eliminated,” he told HT from Gwangju.
The archer who scores the least number of points among the four will have no further role to play in the competition. The Indian women’s recurve team for instance heavily depends on Deepika Kumari. But in an unlikely event if she ends up being fourth among the Indian archers after the FITA round, she will be out.
Veteran Dola Banerjee feels restricting the selection of the team to the FITA round makes things tricky. “That is where strong teams like South Korea can have the advantage. They have such a solid pool of archers it doesn’t matter if someone is left out. All four have the same rhythm.
“But for other teams, there is generally a particular archer who shoots the second arrow (in a three-archer team) because he is the quickest. He ensures the other two can open and finish strongly. Tarun for us is an excellent second man.” If that archer fails to qualify, in India’s case Rai, it may upset the rhythm of the team.
The other concern is that the last time Indian archers shot a traditional FITA round in a competition was in the Jamshedpur nationals in December. The Archery Association of India officials brushed aside the concern saying adjustment will not be much of a problem. But with Asia being the archery stronghold and with at least eight to nine teams capable of beating each other on a given day, these small lapses in planning can come back to bite India’s chances.
A bout of viral fever among the archers in London two years back had put paid to India’s efforts of winning their first ever Olympic medal in the sport. At the Asian Games, India are relatively better off. In Guangzhou, Rai won individual silver and the women a team bronze, that too after they had lost to South Korea in the tiebreaker.
India will, however, fancy their chances of a bigger medal haul this time thanks to the introduction of the compound bow competition. India’s compound teams have taken part regularly in the World Cups for the last six years, even when most of the other top Asian nations had not heard about it. So, for sheer experience rather than their talent pool, they will have their noses ahead.