Recurving to yet another title

Deepika Kumari...hitting a six.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Deepika Kumari excelled at the National Championship. S. Sabanayakan reports.

Without doubt Deepika Kumari is the numero uno archer in the country. The 19-year-old from Ranchi has been winning the women’s recurve National title since she was 14 and on a mild wintry afternoon at Jamshedpur’s JRD Tata Stadium she bagged her sixth crown in the final year of her teens.

The Jamshedpur-based Tata employee won her first senior National title in 2009 in Pune as a 14-year-old. The year was special, for the petite Deepika won a triple crown, claiming the sub-junior and junior crowns as well.

Since then the assertive, no-nonsense kind of performer has done wonderfully well not only at the national level, but also on the international stage to emerge the only credible Indian archer. Daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver from the outskirts of Jharkhand capital, Ranchi, Deepika is a household name next only to Mahendra Singh Dhoni in her State. She is articulate and very much focussed.

When Deepika, a London Olympian, won the women’s individual National recurve title defeating V. Pranitha of Gujarat, a Beijing Olympian, 6-4 in the final, she emerged the second best in the country having surpassed Dola Banerjee, who had won five titles.

“Winning a medal at the Olympics is my focus,” Deepika said. “All my efforts are channelled towards it.”

The only record that challenges Deepika in India is the eight consecutive titles held by Krishna Ghatak nee Das. Krishna reigned as champion from 1975 to 1982. When told about Deepika’s exploits, Krishna said, “she is undoubtedly the best talent we have. I wish her all the best.”

Deepika won her second title at the Guwahati Nationals in 2010 defeating L. Bombayla Devi. She tamed Prativa Boro at the 2011 Vijayawada Nationals for her third crown, got the better of Bombayla at the 2012 Jamshedpur Nationals (in January), conquered Dola Banerjee at the 2012 Chennai Nationals (in December) and Pranitha in the 2013 Nationals.

The woman who stood behind Deepika in all the six triumphs was Dronacharya coach Purnima Mahato. “In all the six finals I witnessed as her coach, the latest one was the best. Pranitha really fought hard to make Deepika’s triumph a memorable one,” Purnima said.

Deepika also created three records in three distance events. She scored 333 out of 360 over 70m, 346 in 60m and 346 in 50m. The previous records stood at 330 for 70m by Chekrovolu Swuro, 345 for 60m and 333 for 50m, both by L. Bombayla Devi.

Atanu Das gave Petroleum Sports Promotion Board its first National title by lifting the men’s individual recurve. Atanu’s senior opponent and 1999 National champion Muni Ram Tirkey gifted him the crown with an atrocious shot with the final arrow of the 15-arrow each contest. Needing a 9 to get his second crown, Tirkey shot a poor 6. The 21-year-old won 6-4 on set points.

Jiwanjot Singh, a coach attached to Punjabi University in Patiala, put two of his wards in the final of the compound individual events, but ended on the losing side. His students, Kawalpreet Singh and Ramandeep Kaur, representing Punjab in the Nationals, came a cropper against Rajat Chouhan of Rajasthan and veteran Jhano Hansdah of Jharkhand in the summit clashes. Chouhan won his second title with a 144-142 scoreline, while Jhano took her third crown with a 137-132 victory.

Jharkhand and Services, spearheaded by India regulars, Deepika and Tarundeep Rai, won the recurve team gold medals. Deepika and Jayanta Talukdar combined to give their home State a gold in the mixed team event.

Punjab won the men’s compound category team title, while Bihar emerged the women’s champion. The mixed crown went to the host.

Jharkhand won the overall team championship with 10 gold, two silver and five bronze medals. It was followed by Services with 3-3-3 and Punjab 1-3-5.

The 34th senior Nationals was a three-day affair hosted by Steel Plant Sports Board. The proceedings began at 7 a.m. and had tight schedules to cut down the championship duration from four days to three. “The absence of a rule on the duration of the meet from the Archery Association of India (AAI) was exploited by the SPSB,” felt a senior coach. “The archers suffered, but the host saved a day’s expenses,” he said.

“This is the first time that the participants have complained about the host. Jamshedpur has always been exemplary when it came to hosting an archery meet. Archers used to look forward to visit the Steel City. If money was an issue, the SPSB could have charged the States, as is being done in other Nationals,” fumed a senior archer.

The absence of the Railway archers took the sheen off the Nationals. The AAI claimed that it had the Union Sports Ministry communication allowing government-controlled organisations to send their archers for the Nationals. But the Railways Sports Board was not impressed and refused to send its archers. The Railways also withdrew the concession for teams travelling to and from the venue.

The AAI has put the blame on the Railways, while the latter has placed the blame on the Sports Ministry. And the archers continue to suffer.

The absence of V. Jyothi Surekha, the women’s individual champion in 2012 at the same venue, was perplexing. Having earned a name with a very successful year in the international arena, the Andhra Pradesh teenager was conspicuous by her absence.

Enquiries revealed that she had been barred from representing her State on some flimsy grounds. It is time the AAI took up the issue and solved the problem so that both the archer and the State benefit. The Archery Players’ Association of India is weighing options before jumping into the fray.

* * * THE RESULTS Recurve bow:

Men’s final: Atanu Das (PSPB) bt M. R. Tirkey (Ser) 6-4; Third: Gurucharan Besra (Bih) bt Gurucharan Singh (Jhr) 5 (X) -5 (10). Team final: Services bt Assam 219-214; Third: Himachal Pradesh bt Bihar 203 (28) – 203 (24).

Women’s final: Deepika Kumari (Jhr) bt V. Pranitha (Guj) 6-4; Third: Reena Kumari (Jhr) bt Antara Basak (WB) 6-4. Team final: Jharkhand bt Punjab 203-202; Third: Bengal bt SPSB 201-197. Mixed final: Jharkhand bt Assam 151-139; Third: Punjab bt Gujarat 143-138.

Compound bow:

Men’s final: Rajat Chouhan (Raj) bt Kawalpreet Singh (Pun) 144-142; Third: Kh. Ratan Singh (Ser) bt Ritul Chatterjee (AP) 144-142. Team final: Punjab bt Himachal Pradesh 224-215; Third: Services bt AP 227-225.

Women’s final: Jhano Hansdah (Jhr) bt Ramandeep Kaur (Pun) 137-132; Third: Parveena (Pun) bt S. Jayalakshmi (Mah) 141(9*)-141(9). Team final: Bihar bt Manipur 222-216; Third: Punjab bt Jharkhand 217-215.

Mixed final: Jharkhand bt Rajasthan 152-150; Third: Punjab bt ITBP 152(20)-152(19).