Tokyo Olympics, Archery: Deepika, Atanu, Tarundeep, Pravin carry India's hopes

Form guide of Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai, Pravin Jadhav, and a look at the archers in their path as they chase medals at Tokyo Olympics.

Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari are among just four archers who have made it to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Deepika is the only female archer who has managed to qualify.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Here is the lowdown on four archers who will lead India's challenge in archery at Tokyo Olympics.

Women:

Deepika Kumari

Ranking: 1

Form guide: 2021: Gold in women’s individual and team event in World Cup-I, Guatemala; Gold in women’s individual, team and mixed team events in World Cup-III, Paris; 2019: Bronze in women’s team event and Bronze in mixed team event in Asian championships, Thailand.

Main rivals: Kang Chae Wong and An San (Korea), Tan Ya-Ting and Lei Chien-Ying (Chinese Taipei), Zheng Yiach (China), Ana Vazquez, Alejandra Valencia (Mexico), and Gaby Schloesser (Netherlands).

Deepika Kumari, the most decorated archer of India, comes from a humble family in Ranchi. Deepika was attracted to archery from an early age and got support from Meera Munda, wife of former Jharkhand chief minister and current Union minister Arjun Munda. Meera, who was the president of the Saraikela Kharsawan District Archery Association (SKDAA), allowed the young girl to train at the association’s facility at Maa Damadiri Ground in Kharsawan in 2005.

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At 11 years, Deepika stayed at SKDAA secretary Sumanta Mohanty’s house along with 10-odd girls and relied on her hard work and discipline to excel. She won her first medal, a gold in 70m, in the National junior championships in 2008 and went on to join the Tata Archery Academy, Jamshedpur, the same year. In the World cadet championships in Antalya the same year, Deepika finished 16th and was disappointed with her performance. A pep-talk from her TAA coach and mentor Dharmendra Tiwari boosted her and she claimed the individual gold medal in the World youth championships in 2009. Deepika experienced a meteoric rise as she gathered medals in several elite events, including the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Cup and World championships. She became the world No. 1 prior to the 2012 London Olympics.

However, she had some disappointing phases in her career, including the lack of success in the London and Rio Olympics, which she overcame successfully to remain one of the leading archers in the world. Recently, the Arjuna award winner secured three gold medals in the World Cup-III in Paris and regained her No. 1 ranking to reassert her class right before the Tokyo Olympics. The 27-year-old, the lone woman archer to qualify for the Olympics this time, will be one of the medal hopes for the country in individual and mixed team events in Tokyo.

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Men:

Atanu Das

Ranking: 9

Form guide: 2021: Gold in men’s individual event, Bronze in mixed team event at World Cup-I, Guatemala; Gold in mixed team event in World Cup-III in Paris; 2019: Silver medal in World championships men’s team event, Netherlands; Bronze in men’s team event and Bronze in mixed team event in Asian championships, Thailand.

Main rivals: Brady Ellison (USA), Mete Gazoz (Turkey), Kim Woo-jin, Lee Seung-yun and Lee Woo-Seok (Korea), Feng Hao (China), Thomas Chirault and Jean Charles Valladont (France), Sjef van den Berg (Netherlands).

Atanu Das has taken his time to realise his potential but is considered one of the best in the world at present. The Kolkata based archer, belonging to a humble background, began his journey at a neighborhood club,  Kolkata Archery Club, in the northern part of the city. His father Amit Das says he took a risk in putting Atanu in archery but his son showed promise early.

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Atanu Das   -  Getty Images



Atanu’s school – Narendranath Bidya Mandir, Baranagar – helped by letting him go at 2pm every day and train for four hours daily. Atanu began with a bamboo bow, but showed promise. Sanjib Dey, a senior archer from the club and Atanu’s mentor, says he never saw an archer shooting 350-plus scores with a bamboo bow. Amit purchased a second hand recurve bow for his son and Atanu shone even with that, securing individual and team gold medals in the National sub-junior championships in 2007. Atanu’s showing earned him a place in the Tata Archery Academy in 2008.

He remained consistent even after graduating to the elite level and bagged medals in international events as well. Atanu competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics but could not get the desired result. He worked on himself to come back as a better archer and claimed the men’s team silver medal along with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav in the World championships in the Netherlands in 2019 to book a team quota place in the Olympics. He improved further to win his maiden World Cup individual gold medal in Guatemala this year and another gold with wife Deepika in mixed team event in World Cup-III in Paris. The 29-year-old Arjuna award winner will be one of the medal hopes in the Tokyo Games.


Tarundeep Rai

Ranking: 58

Form guide: 2021: Quarterfinal in men’s team event in World Cup-I, Guatemala, Quarterfinal in men’s team event World Cup-III, Paris; 2019: Silver medal in men’s team event in World championships, Netherlands; Bronze in men’s team event in Asian championships, Thailand.

Main rivals: Brady Ellison (USA), Mete Gazoz (Turkey), Kim Woo-jin, Lee Seung-yun and Lee Woo-Seok (Korea), Feng Hao (China), Thomas Chirault and Jean Charles Valladont (France) and Sjef van den Berg (Netherlands).

Coming from Namchi, Sikkim, Tarundeep Rai was was spotted during an Army talent hunt initiative in the North East in the 1990s. Rai went on to compete in the National championships at the age of 18 and won a medal at an international event a year later. According to former Army coach Ravi Shankar, who spent a lot of time with Rai at the Army Sports Institute, Pune, the archer is very determined and believes in hard work.

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He saw success at a young age as he won medals in elite international events – including team silvers in the 2003 Asian championships and the 2005 World championships and a team bronze in the 2006 Asian Games. He made his Olympic debut, in Athens in 2004, at the age of 20. Rai had another memorable phase in his career when he won medals in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Cups in 2010. He appeared in his second Olympics in 2012 but experienced a lean patch before proving himself again to pocket his second World championships silver, along with Atanu Das and Pravin Jadhav, in 2019 and earn a team quota place for the country.

Even though the 37-year-old Arjuna award winner has not secured any medal of late, he remains one of the leading archers of the country and will take a wealth of experience to the Tokyo Olympics.

Pravin Jadhav

Ranking: 41

Form guide: 2021: Quarterfinal in men’s team event in World Cup-I, Guatemala, Quarterfinal in men’s team event World Cup-III, Paris; 2019: World championships men’s team silver medal, Netherlands.

Main rivals: Brady Ellison (USA), Mete Gazoz (Turkey), Kim Woo-jin, Lee Seung-yun and Lee Woo-Seok (Korea), Feng Hao (China), Thomas Chirault and Jean Charles Valladont (France) and Sjef van den Berg (Netherlands).

Pravin Jadhav’s journey is young, but has had an impact. Coming from a family of modest means in Sarade village of Phaltan taluka in Satara district of Maharashtra, Jadhav showed interest in sports in his school and took to athletics to run 400m and 800m. His teachers noticed his talent as a sportsperson despite his struggle to get adequate nourishment. One of his mentors advised him to switch to archery and the youngsters prospects soared after he made the change.



His enrollment under the Maharashtra government-backed Krida Prabodhini scheme also helped. Jadhav made quick progress in archery and made his India debut in the Asia Cup Stage-1 in Bangkok, from where he returned with a team bronze medal in 2016. Year 2017 was a turning point for Jadhav, who won his first elite National title in the team event on debut and got recruited in the Army. He claimed a few other medals at the Nationals, including his maiden individual title in 2019. The biggest moment for him so far, after picking up a bow in 2013, came when he secured a World championships team silver with Atanu Das and Tarundeep Rai in the Netherlands and booked an Olympic quota place for the country.

With his high accuracy, the 25-year-old will be an important member of the national team as India seeks to win its first archery medal, in the Tokyo Olympics.

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