Indian archers Deepika Kumari and Ankita Bhakat finished with a gold and a silver respectively in the women’s recurve event at the Asian Continental Qualifying Tournament in Bangkok, in turn securing a quota place for the country at the 2020 Olympics.
Both archers - competing under a neutral flag due to the suspension of the Indian Archery Association - had secured a first-round bye owing to their stellar display during the qualifications for the Asian Archery Championships this past Saturday.
In the second round, Kumari eased to a 7-3 victory over Malaysia’s Nur Afisa Abdul Halil while Bhakat trounced Hong Kong’s Shuk Ching Ada Lam to advance to the third round. India’s Bombayla Devi Laishram was eliminated in the second round after her 4-6 loss to Kyrgyzstan’s Asel Sharbekova.
Bhakat continued her excellent form on the day and blanked Vietnam’s Thi Phuong Nguyen 6-0 in the third round, whereas Kumari had to dig deep to beat Iran’s Zahra Nemati 6-4 and make their way into the final eight.
The roles were reversed in the quarterfinals, as it was Bhakat who had to fight hard to secure her place in the semifinal with a gritty 6-4 over Kazakhstan’s Anastassiya Bannova, while Kumari outclassed Thailand’s Narisara Khunhiranchaiyo 6-2 to join her compatriot in the semifinals.
Both Kumari and Bhakat won 6-2 in their semifinal matches against Vietnam’s Nguyet Do Thi Anh and Bhutan’s Karma respectively, which not only set up a final between the two but also confirmed their spots at Tokyo 2020.
In the final, it was Kumari who emerged victorious by a scoreline of 6-0, capping off an outstanding day. In the third-place match, Anh beat Karma 7-1 and joined the two Indian archers on the podium.
Deepika Kumari’s Stellar Week
Kumari’s victory comes as no surprise, given her impressive performance over the past week in the Asian Archery Championships. The 25-year-old scored 655 points in qualifying and was seeded second in the mixed team recurve event alongside Atanu Das.
The duo beat Sri Lanka and DPR Korea 5-1 in the second round and quarterfinal, respectively, but was defeated 3-5 in the semifinal by Chinese Taipei. Kumari and Das shrugged off the disappointment and beat China 6-2 in the third-place match to win the bronze medal in the mixed team recurve event.
Not only did she win a medal in the mixed team event, Kumari, alongside Laishram and Bhakat, also captured bronze in the women’s recurve team event. The Indian trio blanked Thailand and Kazakhstan 6-0 in the first two rounds, before being beaten 2-6 in the semifinal by eventual gold medallists South Korea.
The Indians beat Japan emphatically by a scoreline of 5-1 to bring home the bronze.
Can Deepika Kumari complete her Olympic quest?
This was Kumari’s fifth and sixth medal wins at the Asian Archery Championships. The Jharkhand native added to her medal haul that already includes two Commonwealth Games and five Archery World Cup golds.
While she has already had a distinguished career in the sport, Kumari is yet to get her hands on an Olympic medal and she will be aiming to achieve that elusive glory at Tokyo 2020.
Having helped India win an Olympic quota at the Asian Continental Qualification Tournament, Kumari will now turn her focus on training for Tokyo 2020 and winning the only medal that she is yet to claim in her career.