Delhi Commonwealth Games have been most successful for India, with the country’s athletes putting up their best ever performance. One of the vital contributors has been Rahul Banerjee, ace archer from West Bengal, who won the gold medal in men’s recurve archery event.
Despite losing the men’s team recurve event, Rahul feels that the Indian archery team will perform even better in the next month’s Asian Games. In an exclusive chat with Zeenews.com’s Sudeshna Guha Roy, Rahul said that the future of archery in India was very bright, as more and more youngsters were taking up the game as a career option.
For the first time after 1982, India is hosting an event of this magnitude. How was it participating in this event?
It is a great feeling, of course. Though we have played in such big events, like the Archery World Cup before playing in the Commonwealth Games, playing here is something special altogether as we are the hosts as well.
Also, archery had been included in CWG after the 1982 Games. So we all had a target of winning medals in all the archery events, be it individual or team ones. We had to prove that archery can win lots of gold for India, and we are happy that we could win medals in every event. All in all, I am happy that archery has put up a great show in the Games.
There was a lot of negative publicity surrounding the Games before it started. Do you think that the psyche of foreign athletes got affected?
Foreign athletes had an absolutely different mindset when they came here and it was not very positive. But all of them were taken aback when they entered the Games village, and now they are talking of it as a great experience. Even the Beijing Olympics did not have such a big Games Village and did not provide such big rooms to the players.
There might have been some issues earlier. The monsoons might have hindered some preparations and caused damages. And, probably, it was because of this negative publicity that the faults were rectified soon and new arrangements were made so quickly. The ground facilities and village facilities that are being provided now are really good.
What do you have to say about India’s overall performance in the Games?
This has of course been the best performance ever by India in Commonwealth Games and it is good that we could host this event. A lot of money has gone into making this event a grand success. All I hope is that the government spends some more amount of money on the players also, for their training and practice. If this happens, then I am sure many more athletes will come out in the open and we will have a better performance in the forthcoming London Olympics as well.
What is your next target?
For now, Asian Games, which are to be played next month in China, is my next target. The tournament is very important for all of us as all the main countries in archery, be it Korea, Japan or China, will participate. It will be a tough competition and we hope to perform even better. Also, now that India is the world number one in men’s ranking, there would be an additional pressure on us to maintain that position.
How are you preparing for the 2012 London Olympics?
There is still time for that. Our main target as of now is to play well in next year’s World Championship and qualify for the Olympics. The London Games will be all the more special for us, as for the first time the archery event will take place at the Lord’s stadium, where nothing apart from cricket was ever played. I hope that it’ll be a good tournament for us.
What made you come to archery?
I followed my sister (Dola Banerjee) to archery. We had the Baranagar Archery Club very near to our house in Kolkata. So, it was my sister who entered archery first. Gradually I too developed an interest and followed her in the sport.
What is Archery’s future in India?
Archery has a great future in India. Earlier, people used to find archery very boring. But this time in CWG, I think archery had the biggest number of spectators. Despite the tickets being a bit expensive in the final match, a huge crowd turned up to watch it. So the game has really become popular among the masses.
Also a lot many younger archers are entering into the arena. What the Koreans have achieved in the last 10 years, we Indians did it in the last thee years. The archery federation has been getting a lot of help from the government, and I am sure, that with a little bit more help, we will surely touch new heights.
What facilities are needed for the archers to succeed even more?
There have to be many more archery grounds. We had this archery ground for the Commonwealth Games. But I am not sure if it will stay with us, as I heard that it will be given to some other sports federation.
Also, there have to be more tournaments, especially price money tournaments, at the national level every now and then. There are no price money tournaments now. They are important because archery is an expensive game, and it is difficult to play by paying from your own pocket. Thus, more government support and more sponsors are needed for the players.
Are there no sponsors for archery till now?
The archery federation has just one sponsor, Sahara. But more sponsors are needed. The equipment in archery is very expensive. And without sponsorship, it becomes very difficult to continue with the game. Many a times it happens that while practicing, an arrow breaks. Players in other countries do not have to think about it as they get a new arrow the very next day. But that is not the case in India. Players in other countries might use an arrow for 2 months, we in India, use it for four months.
What do you have to say about your coach, Limba Ram?
He is a great human being and is more of a friend than a coach. With his experience as an asset, he is a strong mental support for the entire team. My personal coaches, Dharmendar Tiwari and Poornima Mahato are also very experienced and supportive.