Indian archers plan to do a Ganguly at Lords
Veteran archer Tarundeep Rai is all excited about taking aim at the historic cricket venue which will host the archery competition during the Olympics. "At this moment, we are not looking too far. I don`t know what would it be like. But surely, we would celebrate like Ganguly (by baring torso and swirling the jersey) had done (in 2002)," Rai told PTI.
Aiming a fourth straight Olympic title, the South Korean men archers maybe supremely confident but against the Indians, the world champions would surely find themselves jittery, felt Rai. Fresh from grabbing the quota places in the final Olympic qualification meet at the World Cup Stage III in Ogden this month, the resurgent Indians are yet to lose against the mighty Koreans, with a two out of two win record in one year.
From being number one till the World Cup 2011 Stage One in May when they beat Korea in the semifinals before losing to the US to settle for a silver, India slipped to number six. In fact, when their women counterparts qualified for the Olympics from World Championships, the men`s team went on a losing spree and the critics wrote them off. As fate would have it, the Indians lifted the giant monkey off their back when they stunned the Koreans in World Cup 2012 Stage II in May this year to return to winning ways.
They later clinched the Olympic berth on the sidelines of Stage III this month. "It was like a life-coming-a-full-circle moment. 2011 was like a punishment. People were only talking about us whenever we went out. It was humiliating," Rai, who would compete in his second Olympics, said. "But the comeback was inspiring, especially when we beat Koreans to return to winning ways. This will give us an definite edge at the Olympics. The journey has just begun now. We feel we are in the midst of our best performance that should translate in an Olympic medal," Rai added.
"We should not be thinking too much about winning a medal. After all, the competitors are the same. Throughout the year, we are competing against the same archers. So it`s no different. It`s just the atmosphere that makes Olympics big." "Our collective aim is to maintain our good score, something that should place us among the top four in the elimination round." The top-four teams will get byes into round two of last eight teams. But being the senior-most in the squad does not mean he would have an added responsibility.
"We are preparing ourselves like a close-knit unit. The build-up to the Games has been more of team strategy. We are trying to spend time together to understand ourselves better. If somebody has a bad day, the other two of us should be able to compensate it. That`s quite critical in a competition like the Olympics," he said. Rai also credited the Olympic Gold Quest that helped the men`s team by giving them South Korean coach Lim Chae Woong and a mental trainer in Vaibhav Agashe.
"Such was the lack of form, I was not confident to be back in the side from the trials. The fresh involvement with him (Woong) was helpful. He was quick to assess us and rectify our mistakes. As Jayanta (Talukdar) had already qualified (for the Olympics), the pressure was more on Rahul and I. The March selection trial was very crucial. We trained with him for two months which was helpful."
Their next stop was World Cup 2012 Stage 1 where they scored a confidence-boosting 221 in their round one win over the Mexicans before going down to eventual winners USA. "Finally, we tasted success in Stage II with yet another cherished win over Koreans. It set the tempo," he said.