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Sports Shorts: Women's recurve team tops qualification

April 21, 2021 11:16 IST
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Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari, who have won many international medals together in the past, will take on France in the World Cup mixed team quarter-finals in Guatemala City.

IMAGE: Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari, who have won many international medals together in the past, will take on France in the World Cup mixed team quarter-finals in Guatemala City. Photograph: Getty Images/Files

Indian recurve archers had a blazing start on their return to the World Cup after nearly two years as the women's team topped the qualifications with Ankita Bhakat and Deepika Kumari's super show in the opening stage in Guatemala City.

Atanu Das grabbed the second spot behind world number one Brady Elison to propel the men's team to a third-place finish, as India have qualified straight to quarter-finals in the men's and women's team event besides mixed section where Das and Deepika will be in action together for the first time after their marriage last year.

 

"Mixed team, you know, I like very much. If I get to play with Deepika then it's awesome. We're a couple you know and then we'd be the first couple to play in the Olympics. So it's fun," Das, who last won a mixed pair bronze with Deepika at the Asian Championships, told PTI.

Das and Deepika, who have won many international medals together in the past, will take on France in the mixed team quarter-finals, while the top-seed women's team will face hosts Guatemala in the last-eight. The men's team, on the other hand, will take on the winners of Spain and Guatemala in their last eight clash.

India were playing in the World Cup circuit for the first time after their appearance in the Stage 4 in Berlin in July 2019 and the Asian Championship in Bangkok in November 2019 was their last international appearance, albeit under the aegis of 'World Archery' after the national federation was suspended.

"It's been a while since we played any International tournaments because of COVID-19... So it's a very good tournament, very good weather, and I really enjoyed shooting," said Das.

The tournament serves as a preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in less than 100 days and the Indian men's team which has qualified will look to make the most of it.

The jet-lagged Indians showed little sign of rustiness as Deepika led with 339 points at the halfway mark -- four ahead of eventual topper Ana Vazquez and Bhakat.

But the former world number one fell off the pace in the back end, having to rush her last arrows as she along with Ankita slotted in second and third places with 673 and 671 points respectively.

Reigning under-18 world champion Komalika Bari took the 12th place with 659 points as the Indian women's team comfortably grabbed the pole position, 14 points clear of Mexico to seal its last-eight place.

India number one Das finished 14 points behind USA's Elison who dominated the qualification round to finish with 694 points, his second-highest ranking round score of his career.

A winner of two silver and one bronze medals at the Olympics, Ellison led Das by four points at the halfway break but made rapid progress in the back end to breach the psychological 690-barrier.

Pravin Jadhav (15th) and B Dhiraj (20th) made up for their third team rankings on a day senior-most archer Tarundeep Rai finished 22nd with a poor show of 663 points.

The recurve archers were fighting it out solely as the federation withdrew the compound team boasting the Asian champions duo of Abhishek Verma and Jyothi Surekha on the eve of their departure after their coach had tested "positive" for COVID-19.

The next day, it came to light that the coach had a "false positive" report at Sonepat but the damage had been done by then.

Delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday's qualification round at the Sports Complex Los Arcos welcomed the start of the 15th season of the international circuit.

More than 18 months have passed since the most recent Archery World Cup Final took place in Moscow.

Chess grandmasters resume COVID-delayed tournament in Russia

The world's top chess players are set to resume a tournament in Russia on Monday after it was abruptly halted more than a year ago because of the coronavirus pandemic, with organisers banking on safety measures to ensure its completion this time around.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) suspended the Candidates Tournament at its halfway point in March 2020 as Russia announced it was grounding international flights, prompting concern that foreign players would have trouble returning home.

Unlike chess pieces, the security situation at the tournament in Yekaterinburg, a city 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) east of Moscow, is not black and white.

Organisers said the eight players taking part would be tested for COVID-19 no earlier than 72 hours before the tournament and would not be required to wear masks. Handshakes are also optional.

A limited number of spectators will be admitted to the tournament, whose winner will challenge reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway for the title later this year.

Spectators must have been vaccinated, have antibodies or have tested negative for COVID-19. They will also be required to social distance.

"Unlike for the first part of the tournament, today we have learned how to live in these conditions," tournament director Albert Stepanyan said. "At least we now know how to fight it."

The eight players taking part are France's Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Russian grandmasters Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alexander Grischuk and Kirill Alekseenko, China's Wang Hao and Ding Liren, American Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri of the Netherlands.

Vachier-Lagrave, tied for the tournament lead, said he had noticed a sharp contrast between pandemic restrictions in Russia, which have been lifted in some regions and are only partially enforced in others, and France, where authorities have declared a third lockdown.

"It has been a little strange to eat in restaurants again and to see that few people wear masks in enclosed spaces in comparison to France, where it would be unthinkable not to wear one," the 30-year-old told Reuters.

Vachier-Lagrave's preparations included plenty of online chess.

"I did everything to return here in the same shape to play as well if not better, but of course there is no guarantee," he said. "I'm still going to be careful because I obviously don't want to be the person who brings the virus to the tournament."

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