London: A clutch of young archers and a host of experienced marksmen would aim to boost the meagre medal haul that India has reaped from the Olympic arena when competitions in these two disciplines gather pace on Sunday  after Saturday’s opening of the Games.

The focus of millions of Indian sports followers would be trained on the country’s top woman archer and world no. 1 Deepika Kumari who will spearhead the challenge in the medal rounds of the recurve event on Sunday along with squad mates Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro.

The trio booked the quota places, upsetting defending champions Korea to make their maiden entry into the World Championship final, but only to lose to the Italians in the gold medal clash at Turin last year.

Archery events commenced today at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground with the ranking rounds for teams and the 18-year-old Ranchi-born Deepika is looked upon keenly as the person to lead the surge to improve the country’s meagre medal haul in eight decades of participation.

The country’s tally has stood at nine gold medals (comprising eight in men’s hockey and rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra), 1 silver (trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore) and five bronze medals before the Games.

The only woman medallist from India in over eight decades of Olympic appearance has been weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, 12 years ago at Sydney, and the 18-year-old Jharkhand girl and her teammates could follow in the Andhra woman’s footsteps if they climb the podium here on Sunday in the team championship.

However, the former world junior champion and gold medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and her teammates would have to bear the burden of huge expectations in order to achieve their Olympic dream.

For only the second time since the 2004 Athens Games that Indian archers have been able to earn the maximum of six quota places for the Olympics and the team will also look forward to strong challenge from the corresponding men’s team whose medal round is scheduled on Saturday.

Jayanta Talukdar and his teammates Tarundeep Rai and Rahul Banerjee are also aiming for the bull's eye and a podium finish, though that appears to be a tall order, especially after their poor display in the ranking rounds today when they took the rear (12th spot).

The individual rounds are to follow the team events from August 2 (women) and 3 (men).

Shooters also commence their strong bid to prise open the medal chest with Beijing Games gold medal winner Bindra leading the campaign along with fellow-rifle expert Gagan Narang and trap marksman Ronjan Sodhi.

High on confidence the shooters are to begin their Olympic campaign at the Royal Artillery Barracks on Saturday.

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 on Saturday.

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 on Saturday 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.


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