Time For Archers To Display Their Wares
The country which hosts multi-discipline events like the Olympics, Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, can ask for a particular event(s) to be include in that sporting extravaganza. Being the host India had sought inclusion of three disciplines-Archery, Wrestling and Billiards and Snooker-in the Commonwealth Games to be held here from October 3 to 17. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) agreed to reinduct Archery and Wrestling but opted for Tennis instead of Billiards and Snooker. Thus the sports buffs will have the choice of watching record equalling 17 disciplines, in the 19th edition of the Games.
Archery will be held for only the second time in the history of these games, the last time in 1982 at Brisbane. While wrestling which was not included in Melbourne in 2006, will be back for the fifth time. The reason for the India asking for these three disciplines, though two were accepted, was that as a host it expect a good medal haul from them.
India had finished fourth in Melbourne with a total of 50 medals which included 22 Gold, 17 silver and 11 Bronze and now at home it expect medal tally to rise substantially.
The fans will not be asking for a moon, if they expects their sports persons to finish at least second if not first in the leader board. All eyes will be on Archery because in all 24 medals—Four gold each in men and women section and equal number of silver and bronze in both section—at stake and India is hoping to have a major share of medals, with Australia, Malaysia being its main rivals.
In all there will be 271 gold, 271 silver and 293 Bronze at stake in the 12-day sporting fiesta. Twenty eight years ago at Brisbane only two gold medals were offered the men’s and women’s recurve double FITA round. Mark Blenkarne of England with a score of 2,446/2880 points won the men’s gold medal and Neroli Fairhall of New Zealand with the score of 2,373/2880 points won the women’s gold medal.
In Delhi Games, Archery will have competition in both recurve and compound bow sections. The Preliminary Rounds will be held at the Yamuna Sports Complex from October 4-6 while the remaining Competition will be held at India Gate from October 7- 10. Archery has always found a special mention in the Hindu Mythology, and is associated with legendary names like Arjuna and Karna. But surprisingly it has never received encouragement or sponsorship it deserved despite Indian archers performing well, within their limits, at various International meets.
It was way back in 1980’s that a young and dynamic IAS officer BVP Rao, who at that time was with Sports Authority of India (SAI) initiated a Special Area Games (SAG) scheme which was meant to pick up talented boys/girls from the tribal and backward areas and to train them in their traditional games. A number of promising archers mainly from the tribal/rural belt of country emerged on the scene thanks to this scheme. Limba Ram, Shyam Lal, Sanjeev Kumar Singh, Lalrem Sanga Changte, and Krishna Ghatak did country proud. What Rao did through this SAG scheme was to bring out the hidden talent among the tribals and other very poor section of the society who were confined to their villages and if today Indian Archers are considered a big players in the international arena, the former IAS officer deserves some kudos for that.
Indian Archers tasted success at International level in 1987 in the 5th Asian Championship held at Kolkata where Men’s Team comprising Limba Ram, Shyamlal and Rajat Haldar won Bronze Medal in team event. Limba Ram, Shyamlal, Skalzang Dorgi won the Team Championship defeating the reigning World Champion Korea and Limba Ram became individual Champion of the Meet. Then at Beijing in Asian Championship, Limba Ram further equalled the World Record in 30 mtrs by scoring 357 point out of 360. His performance raised the hope of Indians to win an Olympic Medal in 1992 Olympics at Bacelona. However, inspite of Limba Ram scoring 336 points out of 360 in 70 mtrs distance at Barcelona (2nd highest score), he finished creditable sixth.
After that there has been no looking back. Though India has not won any Olympic medal so far. Save the 2000 Sydney Games, India has competed in archery since the 1988 Seoul Games in South Korea. The Indian Juniors were runners up in the 8th World Junior Championship held in UK in July 2004.
In the women section Dola Banerjee became the first Indian Archer to win an Individual Gold Medal and the Trio of Dola Banerjee, Reena Kumari and Ranu won the Team Silver Medal in the European Grand Prix Archery Tournament held at Antalya, Turkey.
Then Men’s team comprising Tarundeep Rai, Jayanta Talukdar, Goutam Singh and Robin Hansda won Silver Medal and Women Team was placed 4th in the World Championship in Madrid, Spain.
However prior to this Grand Prix, India made a clean sweep of individual medals in the recurve sections in the Commonwealth Games Test Event at the Yamuna Sports Complex. Tarundeep Rai lived up to the billing as the top seed to win the men’s recurve title stopping compatriot Kapil Singh by six sets to two in the final. National Champion Rahul Banerjee, who lost to Kapil in the semifinals, annexed the bronze medal beating Malaysia’s Chu Sian Cheng by 6-4. Olympian Mangal Singh Champia again disappointed. The big built, cheerful Champia has been travelling with the Indian men’s recurve team for almost two years and won a number of team gold medals but his record in the individual section is rather miserable. He was shown the door in the second round of the individual section by the ultimate bronze medal winner. Having given Champia too many chances, it is upto chief National coach, Limba Ram, whether to persist with him or drop him. Young archer Deepika Kumari has emerged as a main medal prospect for the country.
The National women’s recurve champion bagged a gold beating fancied Olympian Laishram Bombayla Devi,Sushma and Chekrovolu Swuro, all her compatriots, in the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final. Deepika the World Champion also is country’s best bet for an Olympic medal in two year’s time at London if she maintains her form and remains focused.
Archery Association of India President Vijay Kumar Malhotra was confident of archers bringing good number of medals in the Commonwealth Games. “They (archers) have been given full training, coaching and international exposure. They can have no excuse on that count” Prof Malhotra said his association was looking beyond the Commonwealth Games.” It is time for us to stamp our mark in the Asian Games also. I am very hopeful that this time we will be among the medals in Asian which will take place a month after Commonwealth Games in China.” The Nation has invested huge amount of money entrust on the archers. Now is the time for them to repay.
By Harpal Singh Bedi