Archery: ‘Team bonding’ in quarantine could help India in last Qualifiers, says Deepika Kumari

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The world number three Deepika, who has already qualified for Olympics in the individual recurve category, has a different challenge this time though. As the senior-most archer, she has to bring out the best from her team, comprising teenager Komalika Bari and fast-improving Ankita Bhakat — the only change to the team that missed out on the team quota from the World Championships in 2019.

“Normally, I stay aloof and take time to gel with the juniors but during this quarantine in Vichy, we would spend hours together after practice,” the senior-most Indian archer told PTI from Paris, ahead of their women’s team Final Qualifier for Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.

“Transparency hona chaiye team game mein (transparency is key to team’s success) and I think it is helping us tremendously. I’m happy with the team coordination. We understand each other very well now.”

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“As a senior-most member of the team, the priority for me is to remain confident all the time so that it rubs off on them. Acha karna hai aur karwana bhi hai (I’ve to do well myself and also help bring out the best from them). It’s my duty,” Deepika, who is bound for her third successive Olympics, said.

The women’s team checked in ahead of the men’s and compound teams and entered a bio-secure bubble in Vichy, about 400kms from the venue Stade Charlety in Paris but they were allowed to practice.

“It’s their first time and it’s natural for them to be nervous. I don’t want my team to miss out after one poor round. My role will always be to push them and take them to a zone so that they can give their best for qualification,” Deepika, who recently turned 27, said.

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The Indian women’s recurve team of Deepika Laishram Bombayla Devi and Komalika had slumped to a 2-6 loss against lower-ranked Belarus to crash out of the Tokyo 2020 quota race at the World Archery Championships in Den Bosch, the Netherlands two years ago.

Since then India made a solitary change with Ankita making the cut and it worked wonders as they won a dramatic final against Mexico at the first stage of the World Cup in Guatemala City in April. It was the Indian women’s team’s first gold medal since Wroclaw-2014.

“She (Ankita) is showing a lot of maturity in shooting, she has improved a lot score-wise too. We just have to fine-tune a few aspects in her mental game and we have started working on it,” Deepika said. On her Jharkhand teammate Komalika, Deepika said: “She is young and fearless. If she gets the right kind of coaching and mental training, she can go all the way.”

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“There will always be a bit of pressure on us, it’s normal. In fact, a bit of pressure is good to bring out your best. You should not be overconfident. Rest we will see how it goes during the actual match. accordingly, we will handle it there. “There has been a lot of improvement. We are shooting consistently well and confident of qualifying,” she said.

Incidentally, it’s in the same venue of Paris that Deepika had clinched a World Cup Final silver eight years ago. “Yes, I remember every bit of it and certainly it will boost my confidence,” she signed off.

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