On Wednesday afternoon, Namchi found its second hero in Tarundeep Rai. The first, Bhaichung Bhutia has been awarded a Padma Shri and has a football stadium in his Sikkim hometown named after him.
Rai, a 26-year-old Army man made history here winning Indian archery’s first-ever individual medal at the continental games. Deepika Kumari had missed a bronze by a whisker on Tuesday. Rai took it a step further, winning silver.
When Rai overcame second-seeded Oh Jin Hyek of South Korea 6-4 in the quarter-final, one thought the jinx was over. Indians have rarely beaten a South Korean opponent on the world stage. But then, an 18-year-old Korean was waiting in the final to set the record straight.
Kim Woo Jin, who had a fabulous Asian Games setting a world record of 1387 in the qualifiers, was also the most consistent when Korea beat India in the team competition semi-final. Jin once again showed he had nerves of steel.
Rai could have won gold. The final was a lot closer than the 7-3 scoreline suggests.
The archers were tied 3-3 after the first three sets. In the fourth, they were tied at 28 again on the provisional scores, with one arrow by Jin bordering 10. It went in Jin’s favour and the Korean lead 5-3.
Rai’s first shot of the fifth set was an 8 and although he came back with a 10 and a 9 with his next two arrows, it wasn’t enough.
“It was very close. I am disappointed but happy at the same time. Even the Korean knew how close it was. In the larger context, I am sure from now on they (the Koreans) will know Indians mean business. I am sure my performance will show the way. Soon, we will beat them more frequently,” Rai, who beat Sung Chai Chun of Chinese Taipei 7-3 in the semi-finals, told the Hindustan Times.
Rai, who has had a great comeback this year where he won the SAF Games gold, a gold in the Commonwealth Games test event and then ousted Mangal Singh Champia from the Commonwealth Games team, had faltered at the Commonwealth Games last month. The Archery Association of India thus reinstated Champia for the team championships here. Wednesday’s performance did prove a point.
“This was the result of a lot of hard work not only by me but also the coaches. We have been preparing for the Commonwealth Games for the last two years and stayed together and practised. It was because of that the results are coming.
“We have to keep this going and an Olympic medal is not a fantasy any more. It’s round the corner,” Rai said.
India finished the archery competition with two bronze and one silver.
Both bronze medals came in the team competitions with Korea coming in the way of India entering the finals on both occasions.