Junior talent to the fore

AS time closed in on the qualification for the Athens Olympics, the national qualification round reached its penultimate stage at Kolkata's SAI, Eastern Centre, which hosted the fourth round of the National Ranking Circuit meet recently.

AMITABHA DAS SHARMA

The men's champion, Goutam Singh with the joint women champions, Dola Banerjee (left) and Reena Kumari. — Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

AS time closed in on the qualification for the Athens Olympics, the national qualification round reached its penultimate stage at Kolkata's SAI, Eastern Centre, which hosted the fourth round of the National Ranking Circuit meet recently.

Tarundeep Rai (Army Sports Institute), Satyadev Prasad (ITBP) and Majhi Sawayan (ASI), the three men from Services, led the field of 32 best archers of the country based on the `progressive points' of the four ranking rounds. In the women's section, Dola Banerjee, Reena Kumari (both Jharkhand) and Sumangala (Uttar Pradesh) were in the forefront in a field of 16.

India's maiden entry to the archery team events has sparked off a prolonged qualification process as the Archery Association of India (AAI) decided to take the most fair route, that of determining the names through performances.

It all started in early 2003 with the first phase (having four rounds) determining qualification to Athens. This was followed by the second phase (three rounds) that saw the Indian men win silver in Asian Championship while the third phase (five rounds), aimed at selecting the best team for the Olympics.

Jharkand's Jayant Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee and Bulbul Marandi, who won the men's team event. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

The fourth ranking round of the third phase at Kolkata saw the emergence of the junior talents in the men's section. It was the group of boys from the Tata Archery Academy, Jamshedpur — Jayant Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee and Bulbul Marandi — dominating the senior men with a brilliant show of consistency through the three days of the meet. Their greatest achievement was beating the Indian senior `A' outfit for the team title while in the individual count Talukdar and Banerjee took the silver and bronze ahead of the likes of Rai and Prasad.

Goutam Singh of ASI was the most consistent of all taking the gold netting high points in all the four sections of the competition. He started with the top position in the qualifiers, where the archers had to shoot over a distance of 70 metres in sets of 36 arrows on two turns. Thereafter started the actual competition — the New Olympic Round (NOR). The champion was decided on the aggregate of the three NORs and the initial 70X2.

Unheralded Singh showed the best of his form on the first day winning both the 70X2 and the NOR I. He beat the favourite Rai in the NOR final as the first day fetched him 66 points, which was more than half of the aggregate of 124 that he had in the final count. The third and fourth positions were shared by the semifinal losers — Talukdar and Banerjee respectively. The weather put all sorts of hurdles with hot sun, strong winds and rain alternating on the opening day, which saw a spate of upsets in the men's section. Satyadev Prasad lost in the quarterfinals going down to Shivnath Nagesia in tie-breaker after tying on 168. Other prominent names like Viswas, Harish Chand Kerai (both ASI) and Limba Ram (Rajasthan) joined Prasad on the way out of the quarterfinals.

The seniors fought back in NOR II with another set of ASI men — Kerai and Majhi Sawayan — taking the top two spots respectively while Singh took the fourth position. In the last NOR, Singh fumbled in the final stages to be fourth again but that was enough to ensure the title as no one could match him in consistency. Rahul Banerjee won the NOR III beating Viswas while Talukdar was third. The overall positions had Singh, Banerjee and Talukdar in the order for the medals and the prize money while Rai, Viswas, Kerai and Nagesia came next. Satyadev Prasad disappointed all coming ninth.

The hierarchy was restored in the women's section as the two best archers of the country, Dola Banerjee and Reena Kumari emerged joint winners tallying an aggregate of 61. The contest between the two was from the start as Reena Kumari won the 70X2 while Banerjee took the NOR I title beating the former in the final. Their performance graph went parallel in the second NOR as both failed in the semifinals. Dola was third while Reena took the fourth spot. Ranu (UP) won the final beating Chakravolu Swuro (Nagaland).

There was no break in the order in the final NOR as Dola took the silver while Reena annexed the bronze. Ranu was the next best taking the third spot. She won two consecutive golds — winning the second and third NORs — but lost out to the leaders by just two points in the final count. The team title too went to the top three — Dola, Reena and Ranu — who were clubbed together in team 1.

The fifth meet of the National ranking archery — that will finalise the six names for Athens Olympics — will be held in Meerut in the last week of June. Going by the `progressive points' after the four rounds, Tarundeep Rai (491.6 points), Satyadev Prasad (469.72), Majhi Sawayan (430.215) and Harish Chand Kerai (412.94) are on top in the men's section while Dola Banerjee (228.775), Reena Kumari (227.73), Sumangala (225.62) and Chakravolu Swuro (172.375) are the top four women.

The results:

Overall individual positions (aggregate scores of 70 metres X 2 and three NORs): Men: 1. Goutam Singh (ASI) 124 (32+2+32+29+29); 2. Jayant Talukdar (Jhar) 120 (31+2+30+27+30); 3. Rahul Banerjee (Jhar) 115 (29+2+29+23+32); 4. Tarundeep Rai (ASI) 114 (30+2+31+28+23); 5. Viswas (ASI) 107 (28+2+21+25+31); 6. Harish Chand Kerai (ASI) 104 (24+1+20+32+27); 7. Shivnath Nagesia (ITBP) 101 (22+1+27+30+21); 8. Majhi Sawayan (ASI) 97 (21+1+26+31+18); 9. Satyadev Prasad (ITBP) 95 (27+1+24+26+17); 10. Kailash (UP) 91 (25+1+25+15+25).

Women: Joint 1st: Reena Kumari (Jhar) 61 (16+3+15+13+14) & Dola Banerjee (Jhar) 61 (15+1+16+14+15); 3. Ranu (UP) 59 (14+0+13+16+16); 4. Sumangala (UP) 50 (13+0+14+11+12); 5. Chakravolu Swuro (Naga) 47 (12+0+11+15+9); 6. Bhagyabati Chanu (Mani) 41 (11+0+10+7+13); 7. Devashree Deshmukh (Mah) 40 (9+0+9+12+10); Joint 8th: Sushma (UP) 37 (10+0+7+9+11) & Bansaralin Dhar (Jhar) 37 (7+0+12+10+8).

For points in parenthesis read as (70X2, bonus, NOR I, NOR II & NOR III).

Team: Men: Final: Team 2 (Jayant Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee & Bulbul Marandi (all Jhar)) bt Team 3 (Satyadev Prasad (ITBP), N. Ravinder (AP) & Kailash (UP) 248-247; Third place play-off: Team 1 (Goutam Singh, Tarundeep Rai, Viswas (all ASI) bt Team 7 (Ved Kumar (ITBP), Robin Hansda, Gurucheran Besra (both ASI) 250-229.

Women: Final: Team 1 (Dola Banerjee, Reena Kumari (both Jhar) & Ranu (UP) bt Team 3 (Sushma (UP), Devashree Deshmukh (Mah) & Manjuda Soy (Jhar) 239-218; Third place play-off: Team 2 (Sumamgala (UP), Chakravolu Swuro (Naga) & Bhagyabati Chanu (Mani) bt Team 4 (Bansaralin Dhar, Jhanu Hansda (both Jhar) & Pallavi Das (Asm) 240-216.