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Eye on medals, archers battle teething issues

The dull thud of arrows piercing the targets brought a semblance of order to the Yamuna Sports Complex, hit by reports of falling false ceiling at the table tennis arena and a flooded archery ground.

other Updated: Sep 25, 2010 03:10 IST
Ajai Masand

The dull thud of arrows piercing the targets brought a semblance of order to the Yamuna Sports Complex, hit by reports of falling false ceiling at the table tennis arena and a flooded archery ground.

Though the frenetic activity on Friday and the last-minute paint-job were typically Indian, the venue looked world-class and ready to welcome the Commonwealth athletes. Not far away, the national table tennis team, sans ace paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal, went about its task at the indoor complex oblivious of the clatter and the feverish activity.

Sitting in one corner and observing his pupils go through the paces was Limba Ram, once India's best medal hope in the Olympics and now coach of the team. "The venue looks good with the lush grass but it could have been better had the rains abated a fortnight back. The ground was under knee-deep water, but finally it is in shape," said the former archer pointing at the soggy ground and the bald patches. "But with the archery competition only beginning on October 7, the grass will grow back," said the coach.

More than the grass, Limba's main concern is the preparation of his athletes who seem to have missed out on the home advantage. Though he didn't say it in as many words, the coach said it would have been better had practice started a month back.

"Because wind would be a major factor here, we wanted to start training a month in advance but incessant rains have now forced us to go whole hog on target practice. All the archers will now devote maximum time on target practice to catch up on lost time and there'll be very few physical training sessions," he said.

The coach has another problem to contend with --- food. But that cannot be solved in the near future. "After the morning training session, we have to board the bus back to the Games Village for lunch, as there is no provision here. With so little time left, I think we could have put in more time had decent arrangements been made here," he said.

Teething troubles apart, Limba seemed confident about India's chances of winning a handful of medals at the Games. "We are the No.1 team in the world and ahead of South Korea by 30 points. With youngsters like Jayanta Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee and Tarundeep Rai in the men's recurve team and Dola Banerjee, Deepika Kumari and L. Bombaila Devi in women's recurve, we have a good combination.

"The compound archery team too is good but our hopes rest with recurve. Still, we cannot take countries like Malaysia, Australia, England and Canada for granted. They are also very good."

Even as Limba spoke about the team's chances, his eyes wandered, time and again, to the omnipresent security personnel in the complex. "Security is Ok, but overdoing it demoralises people. They keep telling us yahan se jaao, wahan se jao, yeh mat karo, who mat karo (don't take this route, don't do this). This does not give us a proper atmosphere to train."

But like it or not, the coach and his wards cannot wish the security away. It'll far outnumber the athletes, anyway.