By Asif Kalam
After a rollercoaster ride through the ranking rounds, the archers are placed at the 7th position as a team. Deepika Kumari started off well to rise to the top spot at the end of round 5, but she faltered afterwards and finished 20th after a series of poor rounds and a subsequent recovery. Bombayla Devi Laishram had a stellar run to climb to the 8th spot at the halfway mark, but dipped later to finish at 24. Laxmirani Majhi didn’t sparkle and finished 43rd. The team, ranked 7 based on the combined scores of the archers, will face Colombia, ranked 10, in their first elimination match on Sunday evening. The team elimination rounds proceed through the night to the medal matches around midnight on Sunday. The individual elimination matches begin on Monday, 8th August, and proceed over the week to the medal matches on Thursday, 11th August.
* * *
5th August, 2016
Today, India’s women archers begin their quest for an Olympic medal at the Sambódromo venue. India’s archery medal hopes largely rest on the shoulders of Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi Laishram, and Laxmirani Majhi. Atanu Das, who is competing in the individual event, is the nation’s sole male archer at the games, as the men’s team failed to qualify.
India has high hopes riding on the archery trio, for good reason. Twenty-two year old Deepika Kumari is already an Indian archery legend. She became world number one in 2012, and is currently ranked 5th in the world. Her first Olympic outing at London 2012 ended badly when she went in as World No. 1 but made a shocking exit in the first round. Illness, lack of familiarity with the cold weather conditions in London, and failure to handle pressure were all attributed to her off-colour performance. She remembers the London heartbreak in this interview:
“Last time, I couldn’t fulfill the expectations of my fans in London and it took me some time to overcome that disappointment. But I am pretty focused now. My only target is to win a medal for India at Rio. I train for six hours daily. Things did not work out for me the last time. I won’t say that the medal is mine, but I will give my 200%. Rest I will leave it to God.”
In April this year at the Archery World Cup in Shanghai, she scored 686/720 to equal the current world record set by South Korea’s Ki Bo-Bae in 2015.
Bombayla Devi Laishram is the veteran in the team, Rio 2016 being her third Olympic games. Hailing from a sporting family in Manipur, she took after her mother, an archery coach, and took up the sport in 1996. She debuted for India in 2006, and has since won four gold, five silver, and four bronze medals at various stages in the Archery World Cup.
Laxmirani Majhi is the junior Olympian amongst the three, competing in her first games. Majhi, daughter of a coal-mine worker, rose from humble beginnings to make it to Rio in 2016. In 2015 she won a silver at the World Archery Championships. National coach Dharmendra Tiwary believes that her ability to handle pressure and to score 10s consistently will be key to the team’s medal prospects.
To prepare themselves for the crucial days, they have trained at a venue and on a schedule modelled on how it will be at Rio, and have taken the help of a sports psychologist. They arrived in Rio almost four weeks ahead of the games to acclimatise early to the conditions there, and have been hard at work ever since.
Will this be the year that they bring home India’s first Olympic archery medal? Don’t miss out on all the action! The ranking round is tonight at 9.30 pm (on STAR Sports), and the elimination rounds and the finals are from 5.30 pm on Sunday (on STAR Sports and Doordarshan).