‘The real competition begins now’

Getting ready for the main event… Deepika Kumari and Tarundeep Rai during a practice session on the eve of the National ranking archery tournament at the Yamuna Sports Complex in New Delhi.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Time away from archery seems to have benefited Tarundeep Rai greatly. The early signs do look good, but tougher tests lie in wait abroad, writes Priyansh.

With his hair twirled upwards and spectacles resting on the nose, Tarundeep Rai would look the part were he ever to play Tintin. But unfortunately, there is no Snowy, the affable dog and companion of the cartoon character, and neither does Tarundeep possess a gift to break complex cases with immaculate ease.

However, the 29-year-old can certainly excel at bringing down a villain in Herge’s popular series with his bow and arrow. Move over Thomson and Thompson, Tarundeep Rai is here!

Returning from a six-month hiatus, Tarundeep has reasons to approach the coming months with cautious optimism. In the third National ranking archery tournament in New Delhi recently, the archer from Sikkim won two recurve events and finished runner-up in the other two. Tarundeep also topped the qualification round.

Spending time away from the sport has reignited his fire to excel. Tarundeep seems to have come a long way from the disappointing performance in the 2012 London Olympics. During his absence from archery due to personal reasons, Tarundeep faced many questions regarding his commitment to the sport and his ability to mount a successful comeback.

The early signs do look good, but tougher tests lie in wait abroad.

“The real competition begins now, since I’ve been selected in the men’s recurve archery team for the third and fourth stage of the World Cup this year. I need to work harder to win a medal at the international stage,” admits Tarundeep. Aged 29, Tarundeep claims he still has more than five years of archery left in him. The approaching years, however, will pose a challenge quite different from the ones he is familiar with.

The World Archery Federation (WA) now holds the recurve event only for the 70-metre range at the World Cup.

The third stage will be held in Medellin (Colombia) in July and it will be followed by the fourth in Wroclaw (Poland) in August. Paris will host the final stage of the World Cup on September 21 and 22.

Earlier, 30-metre, 50-metre and 90-metre events were also organised in recurve. The new rule, according to Tarundeep, will have a bearing on India’s performance.

“This was sad news for me. Our medals will decrease in the future, but we can’t help it. In the 70-metre competition, the scores will go higher since the archers will now only focus on one event,” he adds.

The Indian team coach, Dharmender Tiwari, concurs. “The performances will get better, globally. India has been a strong unit in the team events and we should improve,” he says.

Though India did not win a single team competition in the previous two stages of this year’s World Cup, the country does boast a few good young archers.

Tarundeep believes the arrival of youngsters will benefit Indian archery in more than one way. “It’s simple human nature. To push the established seniors to improve, some youngsters who can defeat them are required. Nobody works harder until you make them uncomfortable,” opines the ace archer.

The likes of Atanu Das, Deepika Kumari et al were also blessed to participate at the Yamuna Sports Complex facility, the venue for the National event.

“This was the best competition in India, in terms of organisation. When I stepped out to compete, the pressure was similar to the kind I have faced at other international events. We need more such events here and school and college students should be made aware of them to popularise the sport,” says Tarundeep, outlining his vision for the development of archery in the country.

As the World Junior Championship approaches in October, Indian junior archers will polish their skills during the second Asian Grand Prix in Ulaanbaatar from July 27 to August 2.

For Tarundeep, though, victory has already arrived in the form of vindication of his abilities. Now, he will aim to make amends for his disappointing performance in London 2012.