Even one Olympic medal will be a great boost for archery: Former Olympian Sanjeeva Singh
Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav are carrying India's medals hope in archery in Tokyo Olympics
Indian recurve archers have won many medals in Archery World Cups, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Asian championships but the Olympics is one such sporting event where they have failed to make an impact by winning a medal.
The likes of Limba Ram, Dola Banerjee, L Bomboyla Devi, Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai have been one of the finest archers this country has ever produced, but all have failed to deliver at a big stage like the Olympics.
Therefore, winning an Olympic medal becomes paramount to change the face of the sport in the country, feels India's Arjuna awardee Olympian archer and Dronacharya awardee coach Sanjeeva Singh. In an exclusive conversation with The Bridge, the Arjuna awardee also feels that India's Mixed Recurve comprising team Deepika Kumari and husband Atanu Das has the best chance.
"Even if we win one medal, that itself will be a great boost for archery. So, winning that one medal makes a difference because that one medal that journey will start, and we can multiply year on year in every Olympics. Therefore, I am keeping my fingers crossed. I am hopeful while we have strong chances in the mixed team. If you look at the performance of the past and the present, I feel the mixed team holds the best chance for India, and if we win one medal, that itself will be a phenomenal achievement." said former Olympian archer and coach Sanjeeva Singh in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.
Tokyo Olympics comes up with yet another opportunity for Indian archers to make history as India is sending a strong contingent of four archers, including three men and one woman. These four archers competing in individual men's, individual women's, men's team and mixed team events are Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai, Pravin Jadhav and Deepika Kumari.
The mixed team pair of Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das is carrying the biggest hope for a medal in archery for the nation with the kind of form they are in by winning a gold medal in World Cup Stage-3 in Paris.
"This time we have a very good chance in the mixed team event because both the archers are very good. Atanu in men and Deepika in women and together, they are doing wonderfully well. That's why we hope that they will be able to do well." said former Olympian archer Sanjeeva Singh.
Archer Deepika Kumari has won nine gold, twelve silver and seven bronze medals at World Cups and she is entering the Tokyo Olympics as the World No.1 in the women's recurve category in ranking after clinching a treble of gold medals at the Archery World Cup Stage-3 in Paris just one month before Tokyo Olympics.
The 27-year old archer from Ranchi will be competing in the Individual Women's Recurve and Mixed team event, where she will team up with her husband, Atanu Das.
"What has happened is the two world cups have given her much more confidence. She is a lot more positive now but then both the times South Korea was not there. So, ultimately Korea matters because they are the ones against whom we have the toughest fight with, but we are sure that she will be confident and she will be confident that she will be able to replicate it into the Olympics." explained Sanjeeva Singh, who has observed her from close quarters from a very young age.
Archer Atanu Das stormed back to form by winning gold medals in World Cup Stage-1 in Guatemala City and World Cup Stage-3 in Paris in the Mixed team event. Therefore, a lot is expected from the experienced archer who will be hoping to make a mark in the individual as well as team events.
Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari have also represented the country in Olympics before. That experience is going to hold them in good stead but they will also have to fight their Olympic stage demeans as both have failed to win medals for India in the prestigious quadrennial event.
"Yes, compared to previous times, the archers are much more mature and have some experience also. Therefore, they have an experience like last time when you look at both Atanu and Deepika having played in the Olympics before. At least in the mixed team event, there is a big chance of getting a medal also. They have done well in the world cup. Also, the question is that they need to repeat and they need to maintain their cool and if they do, then I am sure that they will be able to perform very well." said Arjuna awardee Sanjeeva Singh.
India's superlative performance in the recently concluded Archery World Cup Stage-3 in Paris in both the individual and team events has raised the expectation of the country ahead of the Olympics from all the four archers. Still, the biggest hope is numero uno archer Deepika Kumari as India is aiming to get their first-ever Olympics medal in archery.
"In Individual events what has happened is the men's team has not done well both the world cups in Paris and Guatemala. So, there will be very tough fights from the US, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and also the Germans and Mexicans are doing well. Therefore, the chances will not be easy. So, our main chances are the team events and mainly the mixed team. But you never know in the individual women's section there it will depend upon Deepika's performance of that day and if she performs what she has been doing then she can very well win a medal."
"The question is the psychological situation of our archer during that time and that is very important. How they are very well prepared there because they are positive and confident they are doing well but then on that particular day that matters. If on that particular day they are able to maintain their psyche they are able to be in a positive mood and able to handle the situation then I am sure anything can happen." opined Sanjeeva Singh.
India's honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Indian archer Pravin Jadhav in his monthly radio show 'Mann ki Baat' as well as interacted with him before he left for Tokyo in the interactions with Olympic bound athletes.
The Prime Minister also interacted with Deepika Kumari and wished her good luck ahead of the Olympics. All these interactions are morale boosters ahead of an event as the prestigious Olympics.
"Of course, they can see the entire billion population of India cheering them up, which itself is a great booster. The only thing is that there should be no way to pressurize them because many times what happens is that they are under pressure because of the expectation." expressed the Dronacharya awardee coach Sanjeeva Singh.
Indian archers have suffered problems in the past due to the suspension of the Archery association, but despite that, they have always toiled hard and produced results amid difficulties. But now such problems are over and the archers can now focus on taking their aim at the medal in Tokyo Olympics which starts on July 23.
"Of course, now the entire federation is very well poised. They are doing a lot, and the government is doing so much. So, that is very crucial that keeps you at ease and that's what is happening. So, there is no pressure on them today because the federation is very strong. The government is supporting full way, the ministry, SAI is supporting, the state association is also supporting and should rub off on the players." explained Sanjeeva Singh who was appointed government's archery observer.
India's archery contingent has a mix of both youth and experience with a youngster like Pravin Jadhav who is playing his first Olympics as well as experienced campaigners like Tarundeep Rai, Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari who have represented India in the Olympics before raising the nation's expectation for a maiden Olympic medal in individuals as well as a team event.