Before entering the field, Atanu Das knew that it was his last chance to save Indian archery from the blushes. The Sambodrome Arena here was full of Indian supporters who gathered despite heavy showers.
Das, on his part, put up an impressive show against South Korean Lee Seungyun but then that was not enough to survive the round of 1/8 individual elimination before bowing out 4-6 on Friday.
After world No. 8 Lee took the close first set 30-28, Atanu came back spiritedly to shoot three 10-pointers in the second to level scores 2-2. The third was split between the two as scores were tied 27-27.
The Bengal-born archer shot yet another sequence of 9s in the next but Korean was a notch better with a sequence of 9, 10 and 9 to take the fourth. An identical score of 28-28 in the fifth set was enough for the 21 year-old Korean, who had already helped his country win the team gold here, to reach the last eight stage.
With Das’s ouster, Indian archers drew a blank at the Rio Games after much hype was created before coming here.
On Friday, though Das put up a brave show, he still lacked nerves on the crucial points and missed out on scoring a big win. Whereas, the Korean controlled his emotions completely to hit perfect 10s on crucial situations.
In the decisive fifth set, both were tied at 19-19 after two shots. Lee shot 9 in the third and Atanu needed a perfect score to take the game to next set. However, the Indian could only match his counterpart’s score to bow out of the medal race.
It’s all over for India
The Indian campaign has, thus, ended on a disappointing not once again. With Laishram Bombayla Devi, Deepika Kumari and Laxmirani Majhi already bowing out of contention in both women’s team and individual events, the questions are certainly going to be asked about how Indian archers were doing so well at the different world levels in last two years but came a cropper at the Olympics.
Deepika is a classic case in this regard. In London, she was stunned to see such a large crowd. In April, she equalled the world record in women’s recurve event before helping the country to the mixed pair bronze play-off in the first stage of the World Cup in China.
But whenever – London and now here – it came to deliver at the highest level, Deepika looked in complete bewilderness as if she was competing in some other event and not archery.
In the team event here, she managed poor 640 out of 720 which was only good enough for a 20th position. “Nothing was wrong apart from the wind. It was difficult to follow and understand. I shot the arrow and it was a miss,” was all that she had to offer on her below-par show. She even missed her target during the course, which was generally unheard of in recent times.
Archery Association of India’s treasurer Virendra Sachdeva, accompanying the team here, has his own explanation. “I can only say that if our girls could have only repeated what they were shooting at recent competitions or during practice sessions, India could have got medal here. But if we take pressure of Olympics, then no one can help us,” Sachdeva told dna after India’s disastrous campaign ended here on Friday.
“We need to look beyond these senior girls and should be concentrating on our juniors who have been doing well. Let these senior players continue on their own and AAI should focus on training juniors for the next four years. At the end, whoever is best should be brought to the Games,” were Sachdeva’s harsh words.
However, he was all praise for Das who, despite bad weather and windy conditions, put up his best show against the Korean. “He was at his best but the Korean was just too good,” Sachdeva said.
Sachdeva added that the Indian government needed to start the next Olympics preparation immediately because sitting back and doing post mortem could only worsen things.
“The Indian government only starts training two years before the Games. If India has to do well, not just in archery but in other sports too, then we need to go back and start chalking out programmes immediately. There should be no looking back and ruing over lost opportunity,” said the AAI official as he prepares to take the next flight back to India.