Archery World Cup Stage 1: Women's team storms into gold medal clash; India eyeing four medals

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Guatemala City, Apr 24 (PTI) Recurve women's team of Deepika Kumari, Ankita Bhakat and Komalika Bari assured India of its first medal in the Archery World Cup Stage 1 after cruising into the final with a straight-set win over Spain here.

However, the men's team, which qualified as third seed, lost in the quarterfinals to its Spanish rivals 26-27 in a shoot-off after both teams were tied 4-4.

India are also in the medal hunt in three more events with newly-wed Atanu Das and Deepika advancing into the mixed pair bronze playoff. The duo will also vie for individual medals, having made the last-four in their respective sections.

In the women's semi-final, Spanish trio of Elia Canales, Ines De Velasco and Leyre Fernandez Infante were no match to the top seeded Indians, who drilled in consistent scores of 55, 56 and 55 to seal a 6-0 win and make their first World Cup final since Shanghai, 2016.

The women's team will take on seventh-seed Mexico in the gold medal clash on Sunday. They will start firm favourites in a depleted field without Asian heavyweights Korea, China and Chinese Taipei.

Indian recurve women's team have won team gold in World Cup four times (Shanghai- 2011, Medellin-2013, Wroclaw-2013 and 2014) with former world number one Deepika being a constant in each event.

For the womens' team, who is yet to clinch an Olympic quota, the win was a big boost ahead of the last Olympic qualification event -- the World Cup Stage 3 in Paris in June.

'It's (The team event) very important because we are not qualified (for the Olympics) yet. So it's very important that we shoot well and improve as quickly as possible,' Deepika, who is the lone Indian Olympic qualifier in the women's section, said after their semi-final victory.

'If we win, our confidence level will increase. If we shoot well here, we'll get confidence and shoot well at the next event. And then we'll gain more confidence, and shoot better.' In the quarterfinals, they eliminated hosts Guatemala City by an identical 6-0 margin on Friday at the Sports Complex Los Arcos.

The women's team has a mix of youth and experience in former world number one Deepika, Ankita and reigning under-18 world champion Komalika Bari, the latest rising star from Jharkhand.

Komalika said she's able to shoot without any pressure as Deepika and Ankita take bulk of the workload.

'I fit well (in the team)... I'm doing better now and I'm feeling more confident. They only shoot in 10s and I just have to keep it in the yellow to get a win,' she said.

Deepika will also be fancied to add a third individual stage gold on Sunday when the No 3 seed faces seventh seed Mexican Alejandra Valencia.

She was at her best during the quarterfinal win over Michelle Kroppen, shooting three sets of 29, 30 and 30 points and would look to claim her first World Cup gold since Saltlake City 2018.

In the pre-quarters, Deepika delivered a fifth-set 29 to force a draw with Aida Roman and then drilled a perfect 10 in the tiebreak.

All eyes would also be on her husband Das who is in the race for his first maiden World Cup individual medal.

Das' previous best in the individual section was a fourth place finish in Antalya, 2016 where he lost to Kim Woojin in the bronze playoff.

Das faces 20-year-old Mexican youngster Angel Alvarado in the semifinal but it's the Dutch heavyweight Steve Wijler, who would be his biggest opponent.

A former stage winner, world bronze medallist and current world No 4, Wijler will start as overwhelming favourite for the gold in a field that also has Spaniard Daniel Castro, who is making his debut in the World Cup. PTI TAP ATK ATK