Indian recurve archers had a blazing start on their return to the World Cup after nearly two years as the women's team topped the qualifications with Ankita Bhakat and Deepika Kumari's super show in the opening stage. Atanu Das grabbed the second spot behind world number one Brady Elison to propel the men's team to a third place finish, as India have qualified straight to quarterfinals in the men's and women's team event besides mixed section where Das and Deepika will be in action together for the first time after their marriage last year.
"Mixed team, you know, I like very much. If I get to play with Deepika then it's awesome. We're a couple you know and then we'd be the first couple to play in the Olympics. So it's fun," Das, who last won a mixed pair bronze with Deepika at the Asian Championships, told PTI. Das and Deepika, who have won many international medals together in the past, will take on France in the mixed team quarterfinals, while the top-seed women's team will face hosts Guatemala in the last-eight. The men's team, on the other hand, will take on the winners of Spain and Guatemala in their last eight clash.
India were playing in the World Cup circuit for the first time after their appearance in the Stage 4 in Berlin in July 2019 and the Asian Championship in Bangkok in November 2019 was their last international appearance, albeit under the aegis of 'World Archery' after the national federation was suspended. "It's been a while since we played any International tournaments because of COVID-19... So it's a very good tournament, very good weather, and I really enjoyed shooting," said Das.
The tournament serves as a preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in less than 100 days and the Indian men's team which has qualified will look to make the most of it. The jet-lagged Indians showed little sign of rustiness as Deepika led with 339 points at the halfway mark -- four ahead of eventual topper Ana Vazquez and Bhakat. But the former world number one fell off the pace in the back end, having to rush her last arrows as she along with Ankita slotted in second and third places with 673 and 671 points respectively. Reigning under-18 world champion Komalika Bari took the 12th place with 659 points as the Indian women's team comfortably grabbed the pole position, 14 points clear of Mexico to seal its last-eight place.
India number one Das finished 14 points behind USA's Elison who dominated the qualification round to finish with 694 points, his second-highest ranking round score of his career. A winner of two silver and one bronze medals at the Olympics, Ellison led Das by four points at the halfway break but made rapid progress in the back end to breach the psychological 690-barrier. Pravin Jadhav (15th) and B Dhiraj (20th) made up for their third team rankings on a day senior most archer Tarundeep Rai finished 22nd with a poor show of 663 points.
The recurve archers were fighting it out solely as the federation withdrew the compound team boasting the Asian champions duo of Abhishek Verma and Jyothi Surekha on the eve of their departure after their coach had tested "positive" for COVID-19. The next day, it came to light that the coach had a "false positive" report at Sonepat but the damage had been done by then. Delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday's qualification round at the Sports Complex Los Arcos welcomed the start of the 15th season of the international circuit. More than 18 months have passed since the most recent Archery World Cup Final took place in Moscow.