Rai and Banerjee on target

Harry David

Tarundeep Rai.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

THE National Ranking Archery Circuit Tournament held at the sprawling Army Sports Institute, Pune, witnessed the narrowing of the gap between the experienced and youthful archers of the country. The Pune edition, the 14th in the series of such tournaments instituted by the Archery Association of India in January 2003, is an initiative of the Army Sports Institute, and it formed the basis for the selection of the Indian team for the 43rd World Outdoor Target Archery Championship scheduled to begin in Madrid on June 20. Hence, many top-notch Indian archers, who had just returned from the European Grand Prix at Istanbul in Turkey, participated in the tournament and were stretched to their limits by their young rivals.

Athens Olympian Tarundeep Rai of the Army Sports Institute won the Men's Recurve final. Rai's teammate Robin Hansda finished second and Jayant Talukdar of Tata Archery Academy finished third. All three qualified for the Indian team to Madrid, with the fourth and final place going to Gautam Singh of the Army Sports Institute.

After his breathtaking victory by a solitary point over Hansda, Rai said, "It was touch and go for me after trailing by two points till the final three arrows." The experienced Rai held his nerve, while Hansda faltered. Talukdar, the top seed and winner of the Hyderabad meet in April, took the third position after losing to Hansda in the semifinal.

Dola Banerjee, fresh from her gold medal win in Istanbul in the Women's Individual Recurve the previous week, overcame fatigue to maintain a start-to-finish advantage over her rivals bagging 636 points on the opening day to clinch the first position in her favourite event. She had arrived in Pune just a day before the meet. "I could have done much better, if only I had got some more time before this meet," said Banerjee.

The Men's Recurve final was a battle of nerves. And Rai's experience prevailed over Hansda's youth. Both archers were tied 28-28 in the first round and Hansda opened up a three-point lead in the second round. The third round saw both Rai and Hansda locked at 25 apiece. In the fourth round, however, Rai won a thriller.

Dola Banerjee.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

In the Compound event, Hyderabad youngster Syed Shareeluddin, who had finished a poor fourth in his home town in the first leg of the meet in Hyderabad, turned the tables on his fancied opponent Naresh Damor of the Indo Tibetan Border Force to pocket the Rs. 15,000 winners prize money. Sakro Besra of the Tata Archery Academy (TAA) from Jamshedpur upset top-ranked Jhanu Hansda of Jharkhand, the winner of the Women's Compound event at Hyderabad, to capture the women's title. The third place went to Kazengunuo Theunuo of Nagaland.

The results:

Men's Recurve Final (90 +70 metres): 1. Tarundeep Rai (Army Sports Institute: 106/120), 2 Robin Hansda (ASI:105/120), 3. Gautam Singh (ASI:112), 4 Jayant Talukdar (Tata Archery Academy, Jharkhand: 111); Semifinals: Robin Hansda (ASI:110) bt. Jayant Talukdar (109), Tarundeep Rai (116) bt. Gautam Singh (113); Compound Final: 1. Syed Shareeluddin (AP:110), 2. Naresh Damor (ITBP:109), 3. Arun Kumar (AP:110), 4. Shivnath Nagesia (ITBP).

Semifinals: Naresh Damor (109) bt. N. Arun Kumar (106); Syed Shareeluddin (111) bt. Shivnath Nagesia (110); Women's Recurve Final: 1. Dola Banerjee (WB: 108) 2. Chekrovelu Swuro (Nagaland: 102), 3. Ranu (UP:103), 4. Reena Kumari (Jharkhand: 102); Compound Final: Sakro Besra (Jharkhand:115) bt Jhanu Hansda (Jharkhand 111), 3. Keziengunuo Theunuo (Nagaland); Semifinal: Jhanu Hansda (110), bt Keziengunuo Theunuo (100), Sakro Besra (107) bt Bansaralin Dhar (106).

ASI's talent hunt

ARMY Sports Institute has launched a massive nation-wide talent hunt with the intention of identifying 150 boys in the age group of 10 to 14. The project is part of the ASI's long-term plan to win a medal in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Out of the 16 top archers of the country, 12 are from the ASI, including Tarundeep Rai and Gautam Handsa, winner and runner up of the Men's Recurve event in Pune.

"We cannot just rest on our laurels but we have got to evolve a plan which will provide us with a stream of medal winners," said Colonel Joginder Singh, Commandant of ASI. "The talent hunt is being carried out with the help of various agencies in north India, Rajasthan, Manipur and Kerala — the traditional archery zones in the country — and is aimed to tap future talent and moulding them by putting them through the advanced training programme at the ASI, which is the nodal centre for archery, athletics, boxing, diving, weightlifting and wrestling. We expect to complete the selection process by the first week of June and start the course from June 15."