Vakil Raj is fifth time lucky

Springing a surprise…Vakil Raj Dindor beat some well-known competitors, including Tarundeep and Atanu Das, on way to winning his maiden national title in the men’s recurve event.-SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Most of the top archers entered the National Championship without any practice and they failed to make an impression. As a result, unheralded archer Vakil Raj Dindor shot into prominence by claiming the individual men’s title. By Y. B. Sarangi.

“We have got some top class archers. But this is a technical sport; someday you perform well and someday you don’t. We have given some good results this year, but we could not deliver in the most important event — the Asian Games. We have to work on this area,” said Tarundeep Rai, a seasoned recurve archer, as he summed up the year after winning the National Ranking Archery Tournament (NRAT) Final in New Delhi recently.

Despite their decent showing in the World Cups and the Asian Grand Prix, 2014 turned out to be a disappointing year for the recurve archers, as they could not live up to the expectations and returned empty handed from the Asian Games in Incheon.

In cracking form…Abhishek Verma (above) broke the National record on way to winning the men’s compound title. Bombayala Devi (below) and V. Jyothi Surekha (bottom) too won gold medals in the women’s section.-SANDEEP SAXENA

With the 2014 calendar drawing to a close with the two events, the National Championship and the NRAT Final, it was time for the elite archers to take stock of their fitness and other issues apart from rebuilding their confidence.

Most of the top archers entered the National Championship without any practice and they failed to make an impression in the annual event. As a result, unheralded archer Vakil Raj Dindor shot into prominence by claiming the individual men’s title.

Bombayala Devi.-SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Hailing from a remote village called Napla in Banswada (Rajasthan), the farmer-turned-soldier has been competing in the Nationals for the last few years. The 22-year-old archer, who was introduced to the sport by coach Dhaneshwar Maida, sprang a surprise with a sterling performance in his fifth attempt.

“I never expected to win this. There are so many big archers in this competition,” said Vakil, who idolises the famed archer from his state, Limba Ram.

With clean and quick shooting, Vakil beat some well-known competitors, including Tarundeep (in the semifinals) and Atanu Das (in the final), as he won four tie-shoots in six rounds to corner glory.

Even as ace archer Deepika Kumari struggled with a back pain and crashed out in the quarterfinals, Olympian L. Bombayala Devi grabbed her second National crown by getting the better of her Railways’ mate Rimil Buruily — who was nursing a hand injury — in the final via tie-shoot.

Three weeks later, the NRAT Final at the historic Red Fort provided the frontline archers the opportunity to reassess themselves and pocket some handsome prize money. Tarundeep pipped Kapil in a thrilling final, while Deepika got the better of Laxmi Rani Majhi to emerge champion.

“Feels nice to compete at this historic site; it gives us the feel of the big competitions. More such events will prepare our athletes for the elite events abroad,” observed Tarundeep.

V. Jyothi Surekha.-SANDEEP SAXENA

For Jayanta Talukdar and Rahul Banerjee, it was an occasion to regain their feel for shooting.

With a packed calendar awaiting the archers in 2015 — starting in mid-January with the Asia Cup ranking tournament in Delhi and featuring the crucial Olympic qualifying World Championship later — it was important for them to get their priorities right.

“2014 was not so good for me. But I have to move on. Like everyone else, my first aim is to qualify for the Olympics. So, the World Championship is the most important event. However, I have to focus on my fitness and prepare well for the competition,” said Deepika.

It was a fabulous year for the compound archers, who had won four medals, including a gold, at the Asian Games. Their good form continued at the National Championship and the NRAT as well.

Abhishek Verma, who was in cracking form in Incheon, winning the team gold and an individual silver, broke the National record by scoring 709 points (previous record 702) in the ranking round and followed it up with a dashing performance to defeat Kawalpreet Singh in the final.

However, in the NRAT Final, Verma’s fine run ended, as Rajat Chauhan, also a member of the Asian Games gold medal-winning team, exhibited nerves of steel to win the title in a tense final.

The premature exit of double Asian Games bronze medallist Trisha Deb was an aberration in the National Championship. The other two archers of the bronze-winning team at the Asian Games locked horns in the summit clash and V. Jyothi Surekha trounced Purvasha Shende to take the women’s title.

However, Trisha was back to her best in the NRAT Final, as she defeated Purvasha to emerge winner.

With no pressure to qualify for the Olympics, the sole aim of the compound archers next year will be to carry on their good form and write a new chapter by getting atop the podium in the World Championship.

“The World Championship is the biggest event for us in 2015 and I will give my best to bring home the first ever medal from the event,” said Verma.

Meanwhile, the Archery Association of India has decided to change its approach and allow the top archers, especially in recurve, to choose their coaches. The AAI also wants to explore the possibility of hiring a mental trainer in order to prepare the archers for the big events.