No Indian at Archery World Cup Final: Reason and cause of concern
It is the for the first time since 2009 that none of our Indian archers is participating at the Archery World Cup Final. Is this the end of the road?
As the Archery World Cup Final takes centre stage in Moscow on September 6 and 7, the Indian contingent rues over its missed chance to make it into this big-ticket event. It is the for the first time since 2009 that none of our Indian archers is participating at the marquee event. India’s ace archer Deepika Kumari who picked up a bronze at the finals in 2018 was nowhere in the contention as she failed to win even a single medal at the four stages of the Archery World Cups in 2019.
Archers qualified for the event by winning World Cup stages in Medellin, Shanghai, Antalya, and Berlin, Germany or collecting enough ranking points across the year. Whereas, the Indian archers were plagued with inconsistency and dilemma of internal politics, which faltered their chances to make it into the main event in Moscow. Besides, the lackadaisical approach by the Archery Association of India (AAI) has also affected their participation. To consider a few instances, the first of it happened during the World Cup Stage I, when Indian archers were forced to skip the major event in Medellin, Colombia, due to problem cropping up in their departure.
The missed flight to World Cup
A 14-member Indian archery team was supposed to fly out from Delhi to Medellin, via Amsterdam, in two batches. When the first batch reached the airport, they were informed by the KLM airlines officials that since the flight was delayed there was no certainty of the archers catching their connecting flight from Amsterdam at a gap of one-and-a-half hours.
After the return of the first batch from the airport, the Archery Association of India (AAI), which booked a long-haul flight in the last minute (apparently at a higher price) despite picking the team in Bhubaneswar by March 18, cancelled the whole tour as the second batch also faced a similar situation.
The cancellation of the tour not only deprived the recurve archers of an exposure a year before the Olympics but also affected their participation in the World Cup Finals.
A new contingent at World Cup
The controversy further escalated when the AAI decided to send a B-team for the World Cup leg II event in Shanghai. There has been no national coach for years, so the AAI used to send coaches of selected archers with the squad all this while. But this time, AAI picked ‘wrong coaches’ to accompany the team. Ved Kumar and Kailash who were active archers and who competed at the National Open selection trials for World Championship and World Cup in Rohtak failed to find a berth in the squad and entered the team as coaches with no coaching experience. Such discrepancies not only hurt the state of recurve archery. Automatically, the Indian archers with potentials were left out to be a part of just the Stage III and Stage IV of the World Cup, compared to her international competitors who were participating in all the stages.
AAI suspension and power struggles
With two AAI bodies into existence, there begun the power struggle. After long-standing acrimony, the World Archery (WA) concluded with suspending the Archery Association of India (AAI) in charges of defying its guidelines. The AAI had elected two parallel bodies. The WA urged the AAI to put its house in order by the end of July.
While the group is having the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) backing had Arjun Munda being elected as the AAI president and Virendra Sachdeva as secretary-general in Delhi, the other camp elected BVP Rao and Maha Singh as its president and secretary-general.
The AAI was asked to find a solution by the end of July as per the World Archery's (WA) executive board deadline, and since no progress was made, the world governing body implemented the suspension order.
WA had previously tried solving the matter by threatening suspension but to no avail. This time, the players stood between the crossfires of the two AAI parties, where AI raising the possibility of Indian team management to compete under the World Archery banner, instead of the tri-colour. The uncalled-for developments in the AAI dented the morale of our archers and no wonder their performances took a dip this year.
In the Stage III of the World Cup in Antalya, men's compound team of Rajat Chauhan, Abhishek Verma and Aman Saini earned India a solitary bronze medal while the recurve archers couldn’t bag a single medal. The lacklustre performance repeated in stage IV, as well as the Indian contingent, failed miserably with none making it to medal rounds in Berlin. Deepika Kumari was the best among Indians, being eliminated in the fourth round of the women's recurve individual event. She went down 0-6 to Tan Ya-Ting of Chinese Taipei. Her senior partner Bombayla Debi was shown the door in the third round by Gabriela Bayardo of The Netherlands, who won 6-2. Madhu Vedwan lost her third-round tie against Reena Parnat of Estonia in a tie-break.
It was a poor show all over for the Indian recurve archers this year as only the silver linings coming through the Indian men’s recurve team winning the Olympics berth for next year at the World Championship in the Netherlands where they finished as the runners up. The latest progress was seen from the performance of 17-year-old Komalika Bari, who won gold at the 2019 World Archery Youth Championships concluded last week.
Though India haven’t fared well in accord to reach the final of the World Cup, however, all hope is not lost as the women’s team will have another shot at qualifying at the Olympics in November. Besides, the glaring topic to be handled on the priority will be to resolve the acrimony within the AAI so that the Indian archers can soon represent the tri-colour. However, not much has changed in the AAI as the matter being heard by a special bench of the Delhi High. The Indian archers can only clear their mental blocks and perform once the dubiety over their participation is resolved.