Deepika Kumari (18): She hails from Jharkhand and secured the Olympic quota berths by clinching team silver in the World Championships in Turin last year. She is currently world ranked number 1.
The archery target has 10 rings with a total diameter of 1.22 metres. Out of this the 12.2 cm — roughly the size of a sunflower — in the middle matters the most at this level. Each arrow there notches 10 points. From a distance of 70 metres, that yellow blob looks like a smudge. In overcast conditions it looks all the more runny. Especially if your eyesight is about ten times worse than that of a normal person.
In a tale that’s reminiscent of the Mahabharata fable of Arjuna learning to shoot in the dark, South Korea’s Im Dong-Hyun’s myopic vision may not allow him to read a paper held at arm’s length, but he visualises the target well enough to set world records.
In press interactions in the past he has said that he can make out the broad outline of yellow, even if the different coloured rings merge seamlessly given his poor eyesight. No, he does not have a guide dog and he does not probe his way with a stick. Perhaps he is able to see the yellow so vivid for it, after all, is the colour of gold — the only medal that matters.
The sun disappeared on Friday as a gloomy day heralded the start of the archery competition where India is hopeful of a strong showing with the men's team ranked fifth in the world and the women even better at second.
The men qualified for the Games at the last possible chance in June this year. Under an overcast sky, their ability too seemed to eclipse as they finished at the bottom of the 12-strong team-qualifying event.
Thankfully this was just the qualifying round and on the morrow, India take on Japan — a team that’s not exceptionally strong.
The women did marginally better, coming in at ninth and take on Denmark in their opener.
This ancient craft’s modern avatar is far removed from the bow and arrow you have in mind. The bow now is made of a mix of carbon fibre and fibreglass with stabilisers, a sight et al — a far cry from the Ramlila bow and arrows you may have played with as a child.
These arrows can exceed speeds of more than 250 kmph and are a weave of aluminium and carbon fibre. Archers shoot 72 arrows in just over two hours.
Male Indian archers trotted out the excuse of viral fever and subsequent weakness, but it was obviously a case of nerves. The occasion seemed to cow down the women too. Given that we have a genuine shot at an archery medal, one can only hope the opening blushes are done with.