Juniors and fellow cadets watch Deepika’s Olympics target at JRD Tata Sports Complex on Wednesday. (Bhola Prasad)
The slings and arrows of post-mortems have a nasty habit of following defeat.
Why did 18-year-old Deepika Kumari touted as one of India’s surest Olympic hopes, crash out of the first round of women’s individual recurve event on Wednesday? Was Deepika under too much pressure? Did the Indian archery outfit not get time to acclimatise to the London weather and wind? Was the six-member archery contingent ill-prepared? Did the archery federation make a blunder by not sending the team to London earlier?
It is official now. India’s archery campaign to Olympics 2012 has come a cropper. And questions started flying thick and fast immediately after Deepika lost to British rival Amy Oliver 2-6, unable to score a single perfect 10.
At Deepika’s cradle Tata Archery Academy, gloom descended once the 18-year-old crashed out, a palpable change from the wide smiles on every face as cadets trooped into the hall to watch their didi play against Amy.
The afternoon turned tense in the first set as Deepika was remarkably off-colour. Hope returned when she claimed the second set, with trainees clapping and hugging each other.
But things went off the mark in both the third and fourth sets. “Oh no! Deepika didi is out,” went the murmurs of anguish tinged with disbelief as cadets proceeded to their rooms at JRD Tata Sports Complex hostel.
It was all over under 15 minutes. Now, wait for Olympics 2016 at Rio.
But right now, Deepika and the rest of the team — Rahul Banerjee, Tarundeep Rai, Jayanta Talukdar, Laishram Bombayala Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro — as well as their mentors can’t duck the sharp arrows of disappointment.
“I was very hopeful about Deepika. But she disappointed me. She could not even strike 10 points,” said Calcutta-based cadet Atanu Das, who donned the India jersey at the inaugural Youth Olympics Singapore in 2010.
Mate Gunjan Kumari looked stunned. “Aaj Deepika didi ka din nahin tha (it was not Deepika didi’s day today),” she said.
Former Olympian and Asian Games 800m gold medallist Charles Borromeo, who watched the duel with cadets, confessed being surprised. “She is the current world No. 1. And she couldn’t strike 10! What went wrong?” he asked.
Deepika’s mentor and Tata Archery Academy chief coach Dharmender Tiwary blamed windy conditions. “Archery is unpredictable. Wind proved to be the nemesis for Indian archers, including my ward,” he said.
Barring Rahul, Tarundeep and Bombayala Devi who reached individual pre-quarters, Indian archers Deepika, Jayanta and Chekrovolu crashed out in the opening round of eliminations. The Indian men’s and women’s outfits faced unceremonious exit from the team events.
It has hit the TAA hard, which honed Deepika, Rahul, Jayanta and Chekrovolu. Deepika’s ouster is the hardest blow. The cradle and Archery Association of India (AAI) are facing flak.
“TAA has lost a golden opportunity,” V.V.S.N. Rao, the cradle’s former director (technical), said, adding Deepika should have trained in an open and windy area.
He also blamed AAI for “this blunder”.
“The archery outfit should have used the cricket stadium at Himachal Pradesh. Conditions there are windy. The camp at the SAI Eastern Centre in Calcutta did not help. The AAI did not send the team for acclimatisation in London,” Rao said.
Tata Steel had earlier sent Deepika and Jayanta to South Korea for special training and also hired well-known Korean coach Lim Chae Woong. But as they say, nothing clicked when it mattered the most.