NEW DELHI: After tumultuous couple of months, which included the archers being unable to take part in World Cup Stage II followed by confusion regarding participation in the next stage and subsequently a mandatory quarantine, the women's recurve team is finally ready for D-Day – the final Olympic qualifier on Sunday at the Charlety Stadium in Paris.
A total of 28 recurve women's teams will be competing for the three available team quota places and the Indians are among the favourites this time around. And that has put added pressure on the trio of Deepika Kumari, Ankita Bhakat and Komalika Bari, something they are trying their best to downplay.
"We know we are under pressure, but the more we think about it, the more difficult it will become. So we need to focus on ourselves and not let external noise affect our performance," former World No 1 Deepika told this daily from France.
So far, Belarus, China, Chinese Taipei, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Korea, Russia and Ukraine have already qualified for Tokyo. And India's main threat will come from the likes of Mexico, Georgia, Colombia, Denmark, Italy, Spain and, potentially, Turkey. Incidentally, in Stage I, where Team India clinched gold, they had to overcome Mexico in a high-pressure shoot-off.
The only competition for the archers was the first stage and even in that, many of the top teams did not participate. But India's archers are confident that the display in Guatemala City will be a major boost.
"Gold is gold irrespective of which teams were there. Even Mexico was there and it was quite a tense final match. We need to use that performance as a springboard and do even better this time around," Deepika added.
For the senior-most member of the team, Deepika has yet to experience this atmosphere, as the team had qualified at the first attempt of asking on two previous occasions. So this will be a brand new test for the 27-year-old. "Usually we never leave it this late but we know what we need to do and my teammates
are confident and raring to go," she added.
So far, she is the only athlete to qualify among women while the men's team of Atanu Das, Pravin Jadhav, Tarundeep Rai has already qualified from the World Championships. All of India's archers completed a mandatory 10-day quarantine at the Vichy Sports Complex where they trained and adapted to the conditions in Paris.