With steely focus on a Tokyo 2020 medal, Tarundeep Rai hopes to give Indian Archery a massive boost
Veteran Indian archer Tarundeep Rai said he will be making his last Olympics appearance at Tokyo
In his 24-year-old career, Tarundeep Rai has found success at World Championships and Asian Games. But Olympic glory has eluded him.
He finished 43rd at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the men's individual archery event. He was also a part of the Indian men's archery team which finished in 11th spot. At the 2012 Olympics, he was amongst the team that finished in twelfth position.
Rai will be picking up the bow and arrow for one final time at the Olympics in Tokyo. He has booked his berth for Tokyo Olympics in the recurve individual event. The Namchi-archer believes it will be his best chance to bring home a medal.
"I don't have an Olympic medal but have won the rest. So now, the focus is totally on the Olympics,” Rai told the Olympic Channel.
“Tokyo 2020 will probably be my last Olympics. I want to come through on my country’s, and my own, expectations. This time I have worked hard for a medal and I believe I have a chance.”
The double Olympian knows the role a medal can play in giving his community a lift. He belongs to a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group called Kirati. The Kirats are also believed to be one of the hunter tribes of the Himalayas.
"I play for the country and don't try to be an example for the Kirati community specifically,” he said.
“Even if I want to do something for them, I have to achieve my goal of winning an Olympic medal. In our country, without an Olympic medal, it is very difficult to do something for your community, even if you want. If I win this I take the entire country in archery ahead.”
Rai is part of the core group – of eight male and eight female archers – that is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics at the Army Sports Institute, Pune. He is also on the shortlist for the national selection trials for the World Cup.
"Our main target is Tokyo Olympics but before that there are three World Cup (stages) which we are considering like a milestone,” he said.
“The team traveling to Tokyo will compete at this World Cup and the benefit is whether we perform well or not, we can work on our mistakes. A lot of us might be rusty because we have not participated in competitions for a long time.”
Rai played his first international tournament at the age of 19. He believes archery has developed domestically in leaps and bounds since then. Another major positive Rai highlighted is the youngsters coming into the system are making it tougher to win domestic competitions.
"Overall, when I started there used to be 50-60 archers in National Championships. But these days there are so many participants that not everyone gets to play due to the fixed number of slots. Even the score for archers, the No.1 or 2 during my time, will not even finish in top 12 today," he said.
"The domestic competitions are getting tougher, we feel that if we don't stay dedicate then we will lose and might not make a place in the team," he added.
Rai will return to competition at the Archery World Cup, the first stage of which will be held in Guatemala City from April 19 to 25.