Making the cut for the World Championship squad just got tougher for the archers. Citing cases of manipulation during previous trials and in order to eliminate the luck factor, the Archery Association of India (AAI) has tweaked the selection criteria for the National Ranking Tournament (NRT) that begins in Patiala on Thursday.
Senior federation officials and a national coach confirmed they came across at least two instances in the last two NRT’s where some leading archers, after securing qualification to the final round, lost on purpose during the elimination stage to ensure their ‘favored’ teammates also got through.
The officials refrained from naming the archers and could not take any action against them as they did not have any evidence to prove the charges.
However, after closely monitoring the trends at the last two ranking tournaments, they concluded that the criteria needs to be tweaked. “Earlier, a lot of weight-age was given to the ranking round and the scores recorded there would be taken into account during the final team selection. So once an archer shot high scores and assured himself of a place in the final round, he would drop his performances intentionally to enhance the chances of a particular teammate in the elimination stage. Archers would make calculations beforehand and shoot accordingly,” an official said.
Under the new rules, the points earned in the ranking round will have no bearing on the ultimate outcome of the trials. An archer will be awarded just one bonus point in the ranking round if he manages to score the minimum qualification score, which is set at 672 for men and 665 for women in the recurve category.
These points will determine the top eight finishers, who will progress to the final round. The finals will be held on round robin basis, which the AAI hopes will help in identifying the most consistent archers.
“The archers spotted a loophole in the previous criteria and used it to their advantage. Not all of them, but there were some. Since it is an individual event and the scoring pattern is subjective, it was difficult for us to gather actual evidence. But we had enough proof to conclude there was some manipulation in the ranking round,” a coach said.
The AAI also hopes the new rules will eliminate the ‘luck’ factor. While the ranking round was used by the archers to their advantage, the final round was held on playoff basis. The highest-ranked archer would take on eighth placed, second-best would face seventh and so on.
The winner would directly be selected for the national team.
“The rule ignored consistency factor. Those who shot well on that day would get selected and consequently, there have been occasions where the ones who have done well consistently over the last few years have missed out. Round robin format in the final round will give consistent archers a better chance,” the coach said, adding that a few ‘deserving’ archers like Rimil Biruli, Laxmi Rani Majhi and Bombayla Devi have failed could not make the team.
The impact of it has been visible. India sent different teams for almost every event and failed to get desired results. This year, Dipika Kumari’s bronze at the Antalya World Cup has been the only high point.
The World Championships, which also double up as the Olympic qualifiers, scheduled to be held in Copenhagen from July 26 to August 2.