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With target in sight, ready to take aim

other Updated: Sep 22, 2010 00:13 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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The Indian recurve archery teams (men and women) go into the Delhi Commonwealth Games as favourites, more so because world powerhouse South Korea can't be part of the competition. But ironically, India will be looking to win their maiden medal at the quadrennial extravaganza. Delhi 2010 guide to Archery

An optional sport in the Commonwealth Games, archery has featured just once, in 1982 in Brisbane.

The sport in India then wasn't as developed as it is now, especially with the advent of academies and training schemes backed by corporates. And one man called Limba Ram. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, Limba came tantalisingly close to winning India's first Olympic medal in the sport.

An Olympic medal in archery still eludes India, but what that prodigious, diminutive tribal man from Udaipur, Rajasthan, and teammate Lalremsanga Chhangte, did was instil a belief among youngsters that archery was not too bad a target to aim at.

Limba is now the national coach and Lalremsanga part of the pool of coaches preparing India for the Delhi mega event where Archery Association of India secretary-general Pareshnath Mukherjee feels the recurve team should win most of the 12 medals on offer.

Mukherjee, however, is not too optimistic when it comes to the compound bow competition. "Every medal we lose in recurve, we should consider ourselves unlucky.

Every medal we win in compound will be a bonus. It is the way I look at this Commonwealth Games. Going by current form and considering the home conditions and support, India should win 16 of the 24 medals in archery," says Mukherjee.

The Indian men's team will face stiff challenge from England and Australia. But it's anybody's match in the individual section.

"The new set system will be followed at the Games. While it keeps the elimination matches alive till the end, what is also does is reduce the difference between archers," says Dola Banerjee, who led a women's team of youngsters Deepika Kumari and L. Bombayla Devi to its first-ever silver behind Korea in the World Cup in Ogden, Utah, last month.

Deepika has seen a stupendous rise ever since she won the cadet World Championship last year.

In her first year as senior, consistent performance and an individual silver medal at the World Cup in Shanghai won her a berth at the World Cup grand final in Edinburgh.

She has now emerged strong contender to win gold in the individual event.

In the team championship, England are India's biggest threat to gold.

The men's recurve team, led by Jayanta Talukdar, will be without Olympian Mangal Singh Champia who lost his berth for the first time in three years to the experienced Tarundeep Rai in the selection trials.

And much of the credit for Rai's comeback would go to Lalremsanga.

"I have worked a lot with him over the last couple of years and the improvement is now showing," said Rai, who won the individual gold at the SAF Games early this year and has kept improving since.

Limba himself was a bit circumspect. "Expectations of a country starved of medals at the big stage generally weighs down performance. I keep telling my archers to shoot confidently.

The rest automatically falls into place," says Limba.

It has happened in the past where Indian archers having shot their best score ever have lost out to unfancied opponents. The World Championships in Leipzig was a case in point where the team lost in the pre-quarters to Italy and failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Fingers crossed against a repeat at home.