Tarundeep Rai provided a fabulous finish for Indian archery, as he won the silver in the men's individual event, in the Asian Games on Wednesday.
After the team bronze medals in both the men's and women's events, this was the high that Indian archery had been working for many years. In a spectacular final, it was anybody's match, as World No.27 Rai, who was ranked seventh after the qualification, belied his stature to scare the wits out of the top-seeded Woojin Kim of Korea, as he went down with guns blazing at 28-28, 27-28, 29-28, 27-28, 27-29.
It has to be admitted that the Korean came up with the best shots under pressure whenever required to help Korea enhance its reputation of winning all the four gold medals in archery, for the fourth time in the last six editions of the Asian Games.
“Korean archers are extremely good. In comparison, India is not much behind since our men's team ranks first in the world. We train 10 hours per day. I hope, some day we will win the gold and rule the world”, said the 26-year-old Rai, quite pleased with his accomplishment.
In the final, the two were tied 28-28 in the first set. While the Korean edged ahead 28-27 in the second set, coming up with a 10 on the last arrow, Rai hit back in the third set in which he had two 10s as compared to one for the Korean, for a 29-28 score. It was here that the Korean emphasised his class, winning the next two sets 28-27 and 29-27, firing a shade better than the Indian.
Rai failed to get a 10 in the fourth set, and a score of 8 on the first arrow in the fifth and final set put paid to his hopes and made the difference, as he was able to match the Korean on the next two arrows.
The Korean had six 10s to four by Rai in the final, and that one blemish of an 8, made all the difference.
“We work hard in training. The gold medal is the pay-off for our hard work”, said Woojin Kim.
Rai had to be at his best at every step in his march to the final. It was another impressive performance by Rai in the semifinals when he beat the second-seeded Chia Chun Sung of Chinese Taipei, who had incidentally beaten Rahul Banerjee in the pre-quarterfinals, by sweeping the last three sets, 29-29, 26-30, 30-27, 28-26, 29-28.
Rai had possibly gained the confidence to fight back in such a brilliant fashion after his morale-boosting victory over the second-seeded Jinhyek Oh of Korea 26-27, 30-26, 28-28, 29-27, 28-28. A victory in a set fetches two points and a tie one point. Rai prevailed 6-4 against the Korean.
In the first two rounds, Rai had beaten Trong Kien Dao of Vietnam 58-46, 57-57, 56-50 and Chu Sian Cheng of Malaysia 29-28, 30-28, 27-28, 29-28.
Having marginally edged past the World No.5 Jayanta Talukdar in the qualification, Rai was able to assert his form in such a competitive field to earn the silver the hard way, though losing the gold was a heart-break for him.
The other Indian, Rahul Banerjee, was not in his elements as he lost 27-28, 24-25, 24-26 to Chian Chun Sung of Chinese Taipei after having beaten Mir Jit Bahadur Muktan of Nepal 58-53, 53-52 in the second round after a bye in the first.
India had won the men's team bronze in the last edition of the Asian Games in Doha, its first ever medal in archery. It had expected to win a medal through World No. 3 Deepika Kumari in the women's individual section this time, but the silver by Tarundeep Rai has been a path-breaking effort, after both the men's and women's teams had lost to Korea in the semifinals before ensuring the bronze in the team events.
After a sound performance in the Commonwealth Games, Indian archery has taken another encouraging step forward.
Keywords: Asian games 2010