KOCHI:Back at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Indian archery team’s only genuine hope of a medal was Limba Ram. Now, 23 years down the line, as the country warms up for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the pool of worthy talent in archery is vibrant. It includes former World No 1 Deepika Kumari, Olympians Bombayla Devi, Tarundeep Rai, Mangal Singh Champia and Jayanta Talukdar among several others.
But a medal in the Olympics has always eluded them, despite their potential. Though they have displayed commendable performances in Asia and world championships over the last three years, the archers invariably returned empty handed after each Olympics so far — be it in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 or London in 2012.
So, will that change for the good in 2016 at Rio? Indian coach Ravi Shankar thinks it will. According to him the prospects are stronger for India to win a medal because of the amount of exposure the elite archers have gained over the last few years. “In the last one year alone, the Indian team has participated in 13 international events, including a World Cup final, four World Cup Stages and four Asia Cups,” Ravi said.
On the other hand, Jayanta, who participated in the 2012 London Olympics, says the country lacks a sustained Olympic-oriented training programme, which might hurt its chances.
“I think we should have started a training programme for the 2016 Olympics right after the London event. Instead, we focussed more on what was coming next in terms of the competition,” Jayanta said.
In order to make training more effective, Talukdar said the archery federation should start thinking about bringing the now-scattered elite archers together in one camp and starting a person-specific coaching program.
Beijing Olympian Pranitha Vardhineni agrees: “I don’t have a regular coach any more. I train with Bombayla and Jayanta in Kolkata.” Pranitha is part of the India Olympic Quest, and is being guided by South Korean coach M K Park.
Bombayla, another Olympian, described international exposure as the key to better performance. “It will help us get acclimatised to the different weather conditions,” she said.