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Weather or not, India aim for bull’s eye

While India get ready for another sojourn at the Games, they have achieved much in the interim period that can term them as contenders for a medal at the Beijing edition.

other Updated: Jul 31, 2008 23:07 IST

It has been four years since Indian archery showed some spark at the Olympics, Dola Banerjee in particular. While India get ready for another sojourn at the Games, they have achieved much in the interim period that can term them as contenders for a medal at the Beijing edition.

They did well in the worlds and, in the newly-established format of the World Cup, Dola Banerjee came out with flying colours winning the Grand Finale of the World Cup, thereby finishing as the leading archer of the world last year.

Indian archers go into the event with a serious chance, the only concern being their frail nerves when faced with vagaries of weather. At the Athens edition, they lost out to turbulent weather, but this time the Indian archers are better prepared to face the eventuality.

Having learnt a lesson at the last edition of the Games, where the Indians went haywire in the windy conditions of Athens, the Archery Association of India (AAI) is acclimatising the Beijing-bound archers in "all kinds of weather conditions".

The Beijing-bound quartet of Mangal Singh Champia (the only male competitor), Dola Banerjee, Laishram Bombayla Devi and Vardhineni Pranitha are finetuning their skills at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Eastern Centre at Salt Lake in Kolkata under the watchful eyes of Korean coach Lee Wang Woo for three-and-half hours each in the morning and in the afternoon, for many months now.

Touted as the "medal hopes", the archery contingent led by Dola knows that the onus is on them and the AAI is in no mood to leave any gap in their preparation. "We are going there to give a tough competition and win medals but not just to participate. The only thing we need now, is a little bit of luck to convert our performance into medals... We have a fair medal chance, and the women's team event seems easier," AAI general secretary Paresh Nath Mukherjee said.

"We selected Kolkata as the practice venue because the weather here is perfect. With the city having witnessed a good monsoon, the archers were exposed to all kinds of weather. They have shot in no wind, medium wind and heavy wind conditions. Even there were damp and muddy conditions... Heavy humid conditions, similar to that of Beijing, sometimes," he added.

Interestingly, the Korean coach has even moved the venue from the usual shooting range to the football field to have a field of big arena. "The mood is quite upbeat. Everything has been scientific and has gone as per schedule... Even Dola has found her rhythm back. She is as confident as in 2007... When she had clinched the individual recurve gold medal at the fourth leg of the archery World Cup at Dover (England) last year," women's team coach Purnima Mahato, who will accompany the archers to Beijing, said.

However, Dola's road to Beijing was not cakewalk. After hitting bad form in recent World Cup meets, the veteran archer from Railways had to face a selection trial in June this year where she along with 17-year-old rookie Pranitha joined 21-year-old national champion Bombayla, who had already made the cut after finishing 32nd in the Outdoor Archery World Championship in Leipzig, Germany last year.

Delighted to gain her momentum back, 28-year-old Dola said, "I'm now shooting in the range of 110 points, a good score as per Olympic standards. But it all will depend on that particular day. With competitions consisting 12 arrows now -- earlier it was 18 -- there's a little margin of error. However, we all are doing well and can expect something."

India's women squad, competing in team and individual events, have a blend of youth (Pranitha) and experience (Dola and Bombayla).