Women's Archery team looking forward to Rio

India's women archers have been in good form over the last year, winning one silver medal at the World Championships in Copenhagen last year, and another at the World Cup Stage 1 in Shanghai in April.

Deepika Kumari, who went to the London Olympics ranked as No.1 lost in the first round.   -  Getty Images

Deepika Kumari was asked what lessons she had learnt from London. "Lessons," she smiled ruefully, pausing on the word for a second. "Yes." Four years ago, Deepika went to the Olympic Games as the world's number one ranked archer in the women's recurve event.

She was knocked out in the first round of the individual event, a bout of viral fever among a number of detrimental factors. Deepika was 18 then, and by her own admission overawed by the weight of expectation she felt from back home. Much time has passed, but the memory of Lord's and 2012, it seems, is still fresh. "Last time there were a lot of things I couldn't handle; there was that mental pressure," she said. "There was media pressure, public pressure. I can handle pressure better now; I wasn't able to earlier."

It took her a long time, she admitted, to get over that disappointment. "I started to feel fear while shooting. I hadn't expected to lose my first match in London. I found it quite hard to get back into the groove after that. I'm OK now. (Compared to 2012) my shooting has since improved quite a bit, as have my scores. I've worked hard on the mental side of things," she said.

At the Olympic Games this August, Deepika, Bombayla Devi, and Laxmirani Majhi will represent India in the women's recurve event (team and individual). They have been training at the Sports Authority of India here for over a month, at a hastily-installed facility, with specifications matching the Sambadrome in Rio, the venue for the archery event (and the site of the annual samba parades during the Rio carnival). The men's team could not qualify; the single quota place will go to one of Atanu Das, Mangal Champia or Jayanta Talukdar at the end of their final selection trials here on Saturday.

For Bombayla, this will be a third Olympics. At 31, the Manipuri archer is the most experienced of the three, with Laxmirani to make her maiden appearance at the Games. "I couldn't do well in Beijing or in London, where the weather was an issue," Bombayla said here on Wednesday. "I want to do well now and bring back a medal for India. We're feeling good as a team. We will do what we can. If God is willing, things will go well." The team has been working with a yoga instructor who could, Bombayla said, travel to Rio as well. The yoga, she felt, has helped the three stay calm and control their heart rate.

India's women archers have been in good form over the last year, winning one silver medal at the World Championships in Copenhagen last year, and another at the World Cup Stage 1 in Shanghai in April (In the qualification rounds in Shanghai, Deepika shot 686/720, equalling the world record). They understand that the weight of expectation – if the media interest on Wednesday is anything to go by – will again be immense.

“Look, only on that day will we know if we will win a medal or not,” Laxmirani said. “All we can promise is our best effort.”

Deepika, for her part, is 22 now, wiser and stronger. “We have trained so hard these last four years,” she said. “All we expect is that we will be able to apply what we have learnt. We want to be mentally fresh. We don't want anything on our minds on the day of the event. The Olympics only come around once every four years.”