Right on target

HONG GI CHAE, the archery coach at the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune, is all praise for Indian archers.

A. JOSEPH ANTONY

HONG GI CHAE, the archery coach at the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune, is all praise for Indian archers. And, Gi Chae certainly knows what he is talking about — he has trained a string of Olympic medallists in his homeland Korea and the only notable competition where his wards missed out narrowly on a medal was the Sydney 2000 Games.

Goutham Singh (left), the winner of the men's recurve gold, Kailash, the silver medallist, and Harish Kerai, the bronze winner. -- Pic. Ch. VIJAYA BHASKAR-

Gi Chae, who coached the Japanese team that clinched the 2002 Asian Games silver before taking charge at Pune, had reasons for backing Indian archers at the National Ranking prize money archery championships at the Indira Gandhi Municipal Corporation Stadium, Vijayawada, other than the good showing of his ASI boys in the tournament.

While it takes six years for the trainers to impart the basics in Korea, Indian archers get to know the ropes in a year.

What is most heartening about the country's prospects is the strength of percentage-based performance. From as many as 10,000 marksmen in Korea, three make it to the Olympics, while as many Indians reached Athens from as few as 200 archers across the country.

In Korea, archers take up the higher distances only after they complete school, while Indian children seem unfazed should the target get farther than 50 or 70 metres.

After Satyadev Prasad got so near a bronze at the Athens Games, Indian archery's officialdom, instead of getting complacent and going into hibernation, has chalked out an impressive programme to give a fillip to the sport.

The recurve medallists in the women's section: Reena Kumari (gold), Dola Banerjee (silver) and Chekrovolu Swuro (bronze). — Pic. CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR-

The Vijayawada event was the first in the series, offering prize money amounting to Rs. 1.75 lakhs, a respectable figure for a sport other than cricket.

Though the competition was incentive-driven, surprisingly the seven Olympians and 35 internationals in the fray were not able to raise their game. Arjuna Awardee Limba Ram was defeated 156-154 in the pre-quarterfinal by Rajesh Hasdak. Tarundeep Rai also fell in the round of 32 to Gurcharan Singh. Satyadev Prasad surrendered to Priyank in the quarterfinal, the first arrow in the tie-breaker fetching Prasad five points against the winner's seven.

The upheavals plagued the women's section too, with Sumangala Sharma capitulating 98-102 to Chekravolu Swuro in the third-Place play-off. Swuro, who is a sub-inspector of police in her home State Nagaland, is the subject of a remarkable documentary. A resident of Dzulhami village, near Dimapur, Swuro rose from the junior level, making a mark in a junior national championship, interestingly, in Vijayawada again. Swuro, who was trained by Sanjeeva Singh at the Tata Archery Academy, Jamshedpur, listens to Jagjit Singh ghazals to unwind and reads the Bible that she carries everywhere.

That the third-place play-off produced higher scores than the battle for the first and the second spots is an indication that Indian archers possess the ability and skill to take on the best — a view shared by Hong Gi Chae.

The results Men:

Recurve: 1. Goutham Singh 112 (ASI), 2. Kailash 107 (UP), 3. Harish Kerai 105 (ASI).

Team championships: 1. Tarundeep, Kailash, Vishwas (238) 2. Satyadev Prasad, Majhi Sawayan, Goutam Singh (233) 3. Robin Hansda, N.Ravinder, Mangal Singh (237).

Compound: 1. N. Arun Kumar 106, 10 (AP) 2. Shivnath Nagesia 106, 9 (ITBP) 3. Naresh Damor 109 (ITBP).

Women:

Recurve: 1. Reena Kumari 108, 10 (Jha) 2. Dola Banerjee 108, 9 (Jha) 3. Chekrovolu Swuro 103 (Nag).

Team championships: 1. Dola Banerjee, Reena Kumari, Chekrovolu Swuro (237) 2. Sumangala Sharma, Ranu, Bhagyabati Chanu (220) 3. Sushma, Bombayla Devi, Mamta (201).

Compound: 1. Jhanu Hansda 109 (Jha) 2. Sakro Besra 96 (Jha) 3. Jyoti Kumari 94 (Jha).