Indian recurve archers stood their ground despite stiff competition to bag two golds and as many bronze medals in the Commonwealth Games archery competition, which concluded at the Yamuna Sports Complex here on Sunday.
Top seeds Rahul Banerjee and Deepika Kumari clinched first place in the individual categories, while Dola Banerjee and Jayanta Talukdar bagged a bronze medal each.
Deepika turned in a flawless performance under extremely challenging wind conditions, to outclass five-time Olympian Alison Williamson, seeded six, in straight sets 6-0 in the final while Rahul, the top seed, had to ward off a stiff challenge from a consistent Lyon Jason of Canada to win 6-5 in a shoot-off.
Deepika made a perfect final set score of 30 to nail the contest. Thirty-nine-year-old Williamson, a bronze medallist in the 2004 Olympics, started with an eight in the first set and was shooting confidently thereafter. But a seven in the last arrow of the third set blew away her chances.
“I feel very happy. The wind conditions were difficult, which I am not used to. The bow was shaking a lot and we had to pull it very hard. I am satisfied that I was able to handle it,” said Deepika. “I dedicate the victory to my parents and coaches — Dharmender and Poornima Mahato.”
Dola struggled under similar conditions and bowed out to Williamson in four sets 6-2 in the semifinals. But she won the third place-play off match, with a comfortable 6-2 win over Malaysia's S. Anbarasi.
A trainee of the Tata Academy in Jamshedpur, Deepika could be the new poster girl for archery. She has been a consistent performer at the international level since making her international debut in 2008. Part of the team which won the gold in Stage II of the World Cup in Antalya (Turkey) followed by a silver in Stage IV at Shanghai, the 16-year-old has proved to the world she has the talent and the nous to go further.
For Rahul, the individual section was a roller-coaster ride. All the three rounds he played from the quarterfinals to the final, had to be decided on a shoot-off. Credit, however, should be given to him for maintaining his composure in all of them. “There was immense pressure on me. Add to that the wind conditions were very tough. I am happy that I delivered,” said Rahul.
India finished with a rich medal haul of three golds, one silver and four bronze medals in the competition. On whether he was happy with the archers' overall performance in the Games,Rahul said “Overall we are happy. But taking a bronze in the recurve team event was a disappointment.”