Indian archers provide a disappointing start

London: Indian archers, spearheaded by women`s world number one Deepika Kumari, came up with a disappointing show in the team championship ranking rounds that commenced today at the Olympic Games ahead of the opening ceremony scheduled later.

Deepika, the 2011 world junior champion and a hot medal contender in the bow and arrow discipline, and her teammates Laishram Bambayla Devi and Swuro Chekrovolu came up with a combined effort of 1938 that pushed them down to the 9th spot from 12 teams. The trio would take part in the team elimination rounds on Sunday which would decide their medal fate.

The men`s trio of Jayanta Talukdar and his teammates Tarundeep Rai and Rahul Banerjee also put up a tame display in the ranking rounds today when they took the rear (12th spot). They would continue their pursuit of the team medal as they clash with Japan in the pre-quarterfinals tomorrow.

The individual rounds are to follow the team events from August 2 (women) and 3 (men) at the iconic Lord`s Cricket Ground. The only woman medallist from India in over eight decades of Olympic appearance has been weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, 12 years ago in Sydney. 18-year-old Jharkhand girl Deepika and her teammates are striving hard to follow in the Andhra woman`s footsteps by climbing the podium in the team championship.

Apart from Deepika, India`s medal hopes in the mega event in the early part of the Games rest on a clutch of experienced marksmen as they aim to boost the meagre medal haul that India has reaped from the Olympic arena. The country`s tally has stood at nine gold medals (comprising eight in men`s hockey and rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra), one silver (trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore) and five bronze medals before the London Games.

The shooters commence their strong bid to prise open the medal chest tomorrow with Beijing Games gold medal winner Bindra leading the country`s campaign at the Royal Artillery Barracks along with fellow-rifle expert Gagan Narang and trap marksman Ronjan Sodhi. Though records and current form have raised hopes of a good number of medals from the shooting arena, it is still a tough ask for the Indians to ensure that their medal quest bears fruit.

The spotlight would largely be on the star men`s trio of shooters, all of whom are being touted as serious medal contenders though the other shooters are also quite talented and can pull off a surprise or two on their day. For the first time ever, India have fielded 11 shooters unlike the eight participants in the Beijing Games, which only reflects the improved show by the marksmen in recent years.

The huge hype surrounding the shooters will also put more pressure on the likes of Sodhi, Bindra and Narang as they are well aware that there is no room for errors at this stage. While Bindra trained in Germany and appears to have regained his form, Narang is also in his zone after having performed consistently in recent times under coach Stanislav Lapidus. Narang will be seen in action in three events in London but 10m Air rifle is his main event where he will challenge Bindra and China`s Zhu Qinan.

"They have been training hard for long periods and have taken part in a lot of competitions. The effort is to bring them to peak form by the time we go into the Olympics. That is what matters and not what we have done in the past. Previous outings don`t matter," India`s coach Sunny Thomas said. Vijay Kumar, triple gold medallist in CWG, will start India`s campaign when he takes to the range for the 10-metre Air Pistol event tomorrow.

Heena Sidhu and Annuraj Singh will be seen in action the next day in the women`s 10-metre Air Pistol event. July 30 could turn out to be a big day for India as Bindra and Narang will be representing the country in their pet event, 10-metre Air Rifle. Two days later, Sodhi will look to hit the bull`s eye in the double trap event.

Then there are also Sanjeev Rajput, Joydeep Karmakar and Rahi Sarnobat — all capable of producing scores good enough to get medals. Also in action tomorrow would be the weightlifters, rowers, table tennis players and the much-hyped boxers. The warring tennis players will also seek to prove a point after a stormy build-up.