| Dola Banerjee waits for her turn as Satyadev Prasad takes a closer look at the target during the national ranking archery meet at the SAI Eastern Centre Saturday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, May 3: Dola Banerjee has been one of the leading performers among women archers for four years now. For the Baranagar girl, who had her first lessons at a local club as a 10-year-old, it has been a journey worth remembering.
Dola tallied 1314 points to lose by one point in the quarter finals of the Busan Asian Games, and that remains a disappointment.
Her next target is to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics. She has to finish among the first 64 in July’s world championships in New York, and Dola is determined to do it.
“Competing in the Olympics is a dream. I will be participating in the European circuit later this month. Exposure to more international meets helps you immensely in competing with the very best,” Dola told The Telegraph this afternoon.
“Lack of international exposure has been a big handicap for Indian archers. There is hardly any competition here. Archers from other countries participate in 30-35 international tournaments a year while we have to wait for one world or Asian meet to come around,” she lamented.
The high cost of equipment is also a big worry. “A dozen arrows cost Rs 18,000 while a standard bow comes for Rs 75,000.
Moreover, the equipment has to be imported from Korea. This process of importing requires at least two months.
“An archer has to keep a minimum of two sets of equipment ready for any meet. The arrows need to be changed regularly and it involves enormous expenditure. I suffered a lot when by bow broke down just before the 1999 senior nationals,” Dola recalled.
How does she make ends meet' “I have a contract with Tata and the stipend earned helps me immensely. I practise at the Academy in Jamshedpur and so have to turn out for Jharkhand at the nationals.
“I have to maintain the standards to keep the contract going.”
Dedication and love for the sport has been the secret of her success. She has benefited from the stints with two Korean coaches during the India camps.
“Chun-Inn Soo showed us that only practice can make us perform better. He was with the national side before the world championships in Beijing in 2001. We used to practise from six in the morning and continue till late evening.
Hitting 500-600 arrows a day is bound to improve your level. He also gave us some valuable technical advice.
“Chae-Woong Lim has also been of great help. He has been around since a couple of months before the Busan Games.”
It is with the help of Lim and her devotion that Dola is trying to break into the Olympic fold.