World number two Deepika Kumari has failed to make the Indian squad for the upcoming Asian Games, suffering one of the biggest setbacks in her illustrious career. Deepika lost two of her three round robin matches in the final leg to miss her Asian Games berth at the SAI Centre on Sunday. Deepika had finished a lowly fifth in the two-phase eliminations on Saturday to determine the top-eight, as she had to fight in the round robin matches.
Nearly a year and a half after getting financial help from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS)'s Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay National Welfare Fund for Sportspersons (PDUNWFS), Uttar Pradesh's archer Neeraj Chauhan has made it to the Indian archery team for the Asian Games. This is for the first time since winning a gold medal at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010, Deepika will be out of a multi-discipline showpiece event.
The 27-year-old has represented India at the Asian Games in 2010, 2014 and 2018, winning a team bronze in Guangzhou 12 years ago. In her senior career since 2009, Deepika's trophy cabinet is full of World medals, but an Olympic podium finish has eluded the most decorated Indian archer. Deepika has won 11 gold medals, 12 silver and seven bronze at the World Cup.
She is also a record four-time 'World Cup Final' runner-up and a bronze medalist.Deepika has also won two silver medals at the World Championships. Tokyo Olympics last year was her best chance yet, when she went with the world No 1 tag for the second time (since London 2012) after winning five World Cup medals in the build-up. But Korean rivals became her nemesis once again, as she capped quarterfinal exits in both mixed and individual events.
In the round robin phase, Deepika finished with one point to fall behind, as Ankita Bhakat (3.25) and Simranjeet Kaur (2) joined Haryana teenagar and reigning national champion Ridhi Phor. The 17-year-old had already confirmed her berth along with veteran Services archer Tarundeep Rai by topping their respective elimination rounds. The same team will also represent India in the first three phases of the World Cup beginning with the Stage 1 in Antalya in mid-April.
Not the end of the road for first archery couple
The first archery couple to represent in an Olympics in Tokyo last year, Deepika and Atanu Das can still fancy their chances to make a comeback, should the current squad underperforms in the three World Cup legs. "We will monitor their performances in the World Cups and should an archer falls way behind (in qualification scores) then we will have a final trial in July for the ones who missed out," a top Indian archery official told PTI.
The pair was going through a rough patch since the Tokyo debacle and also missed the cut for last year's World Championships, the trial for which was conducted immediately after the Olympics. At the recently-concluded senior Nationals, Das had to settle for a silver losing to Sachin Gupta, while Deepika finished with a bronze. "It's not that they are faring poorly but the upcoming archers are doing better. They are facing some mental issues and I hope they will overcome it sooner than later keeping the Paris Olympics in mind next year," he added.
Talukdar makes Asian Games comeback after 12 years
The men's lineup for the Hangzhou Asiad sprung some surprise as 36-year-old Jayanta Talukdar made a comeback to the Indian squad for the first time since 2019. The 2006 World Cup champion, who made his Asian Games debut in the same year, grabbed his berth by qualifying alongside 22-year-old reigning national champion Sachin Gupta.
The men's recurve team will thus have two Asian Games warhorses in Rai and Talukdar, who both won a team bronze at the Guangzhou edition 12 years ago. Rai, who was the first to qualify topping the elimination round, has also won a historic individual silver in Guangzhou 2010. The compound lineup will be announced on Wednesday. Asian Games are slated in Hangzhou from September 10-25.
Preliminary India squad for three World Cups and Asiad:
Men's recurve: Tarundeep Rai, Jayanta Talukdar, Neeraj Chauhan and Sachin Gupta.
Women's recurve: Ridhi Phor, Komalika Bari, Ankita Bhakat and Simranjeet Kaur.