Women's team has the best chance

A lot of thought has been put into how the trio of Bombayla Devi, Deepika Kumari and Laxmirani Majhi will best function.

The Indian archery women’s team members (from left) Deepika Kumari, Laxmirani Majhi and Bombayla Devi, during an interaction session with the media at SAI South (Kengeri) in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Purnima Mahato uses one word time and again to explain Indian archery's troubles in London 2012: 'Panic'. It is a word, the National coach hopes, she will not have to employ in connection with Rio. The women's team event is where India has its best chance of success in archery, and a lot of thought has been put into how the trio of Bombayla Devi, Deepika Kumari and Laxmirani Majhi will best function. At 31, Bombayla will be at her third Olympics, while Laxmirani will be making her debut at the Games. Deepika is arguably the group's best talent. "Bombayla is the first shooter; Laxmirani has been put in the middle; and Deepika will be the third. One advantage of this format is that even if you have a poor start, it’s easy to make a comeback. Even if one shooter has an off day the other can make up for that mistake and still win the tie. I just don’t want them to panic," says Purnima, a former Commonwealth Games silver-medallist.

Dharmendra Tiwary, also the National coach, is someone who first trained Deepika some eight years ago at the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur. He says the team has learned its lessons from 2012. “The biggest problem was that last time we had a camp in Kolkata. And it was very hot there, while London was very cold. A number of players went down with viral fever. It took them three or four days to recover. Then we found it difficult to judge the wind at the stadium (Lord's). Because back home, we had trained on a normal field,” he says.

Both coaches admit that Deepika took a long time to recover from that first-round exit. “It took her nearly two years to get back to where she was,” Purnima says. Tiwary adds: “She became very nervous. She was even out of the National team for a while. Then she trained under me for a while, and slowly her confidence improved. This time, she has done well in all the trials. She has broken the world record twice in the trials and once equalled it in competition in April. Since then there's been a dip in form, but I'm hoping that as we near the Olympics, she hits form again.”

Tiwary understands how significant their success can be. “It's very important for archery,” he says. “Everyone wants a medal. Even if we win a single medal, the popularity of archery in this country will increase.”