Kolkata: With World Champions Korea and formidable China not part of the competition, India would look to put up a dominating show when archery is re-introduced in the New Commonwealth Games, next month.
After making a debut in the Brisbane edition in 1982, archery will feature only for the second time in the Games, with hosts being a strong contenders.
With senior archers such as Olympians Tarundeep Rai and Dola Banerjee and cadet world champion Deepika Kumari, Indian squad is a blend of experience and youth.
Jayanta Talukdar and Rahul Banerjee make a strong men’s recurve side with Rai, who has made the cut at the expense of Beijing Olympian Mangal Singh Champia.
The trio is high on confidence especially after their gold medal triumph in the World Cup Stage 4 in Shanghai with a record 224 score, highest so far by the men’s side.
In all, 24 medals are up for grabs but India’s best bet is the recurve bow event.
Chief coach Limba Ram said out of eight gold medals on offer in this event, the hosts have a chance to win at least six of them in both men’s and women’s categories.
“We have a strong side with a lot of experience. With home conditions, we should get at least six gold medals with top places in men’s and women’s recurve section,” Chief coach Limba Ram told PTI.
“We have been preparing for the CWG and Asian Games for last two years. There were no exposure trips but our archers have done really well at the different legs of the World Cup and the Asian GPs.”
The only Indian to win a World Cup Grand Final (Dubai, 2007), Banerjee will lead the charge of the women’s side.
She said the fact that they will up against some teams, whom they have already beaten this year, gives them the confidence of doing well.
“Everything is going in the right direction for us. In the initial round at the World Cup, we beat England who will again compete us at the CWG. We also beat Asian Games competitors China (in the semis).
“Also we had our best score so far, so the confidence is sky-high. We are not at all worried and confident of clinching both the (individual and team) gold medals,” Banerjee told PTI.
The men’s side had earlier this year won the silver and gold medals at the World Cup Stage 1 (Porec, May 4-8) and Stage 2 (Antalya, June 7-11) respectively.
Indian archers had begun the year in style as they swept all the gold medals at the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka.
Rai and Banerjee had emerged the individual champions and they also helped India win both the team gold medals.
Laishram Bombayla Devi won a silver in women’s individual recurve event, while Talukdar won bronze in the men’s event.
In the run-up to CWG, the women’s recurve team were not as successful as their men’s counterpart but the rise of 14-year-old Deepika Kumari, who won a silver in World Cup Stage 4 (Shanghai), augurs well for them.
The Ranchi girl, incidentally, is also the reigning cadet world champion and senior national champion.
The team returned empty-handed from the Shanghai meet but compensated the poor show with a silver medal at World Cup Stage 3 in Ogden, last month.
“We would have about two weeks time at the Yamuna Sports Complex (the CWG venue) to get used to the condition. Besides, we did well at the test competition in the same venue,” Banerjee said.
She along with Deepika in the women’s section and Jayanta in the men’s section are currently in Edinburgh for the World Cup finals.
However, India will have a tough task in the compound bow section as teams like Australia, South Africa and Canada expected to give the hosts a run for their money.
But the coach Limba Ram is still optimistic.
“Compound is new to us but we still hope for men’s and women’s team gold medals in the section.”
Commonwealth Games: Men’s Recurve: Taurndeep Rai (Services), Jayanta Talukdar and Rahul Banerjee (both SPSB) ; Women’s Recurve: Dola Banerjee, L Bombayala Devi (both Railways) and Deepika Kumari (SPSB); Men’s Compound: C Srither, CH Jignas (both Services) and Ritul Chatterjee (Andhra Pradesh); Women’s Compound: Jhanu Hansda, Bheigyabati Chanu (Jharkhand) and Gagandeep Kaur (Punjab).