Archer Deepika Kumari has said the federation should not have decided on her partner for the mixed team event in the Tokyo Olympics based on one performance in the men's individual ranking round at the showpiece event.
In the men's individual ranking round, Pravin Jadhav secured the 31st spot while Atanu finished at the 35th spot, and hence Pravin was chosen as Deepika's partner in the mixed team event. However, heading into the Olympics, Deepika had trained alongside her husband Atanu Das.
The pair of Atanu and Deepika had also won gold in the Paris World Cup Stage 3 which was played a month prior to the Tokyo Olympics. Deepika and Pravin ended up losing the quarter-finals in the Tokyo Olympics against An San and Kim Je Deok.
"The matter has closed, we cannot do anything about it. If at that time, a decision was taken strongly then the situation might have been different. Obviously, there are qualities that an athlete has, team coordination is also very important. We prepared together for many years but here it came to an end," Deepika said after Atanu's match on Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday, Atanu Das bowed out of men's individual event after losing to Japan's Takaharu Furukawa in the 1/8 Eliminations Round at Yumenoshima Park.
Furukawa defeated the 29-year-old 6-4 in the decider to cruise into the quarterfinals of the men's individual event. Deepika had also bowed out of the women's individual event after losing to An San of South Korea.
Pravin Jadhav and Federation's side of the story
Splitting the in-form archery couple Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari for the mixed pair event at the Tokyo Olympics might have stunned many but Indian chief coach Mim Bahadur Gurung said it was a "clean and fair selection".
"It was a clean and fair selection. We went with our highest ranked players in the qualification round. It was not a mistake," Gurung told PTI, defending the decision to pick Jadhav ahead of Das.
The archery couple Deepika and Das had come to Tokyo less than a month after winning a World Cup gold medal in Paris.
But here, Jadhav was the best among the Indian trio, finishing 31st, four places ahead of Deepika's 'favourite' partner Das in the individual ranking round.
On what basis are the mixed teams formed
The mixed teams are normally formed on the basis of top scores by the male and female archers of a country.
A country has the option of switching to their best combination but India opted against it and put up a new pair for the Olympics.
In fact, Deepika also sounded upset at the last-minute change and said it "mattered".
But Gurung, who has worked with Jadhav since his early days at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, maintained that it was an automatic choice.
"I don't know what she (Deepika) has said... It's always the highest ranked two players who team up for the mixed pair competition.
"It was an automatic choice. Won't it be hurting to leave someone out despite topping for us. We didn't want to play with his career.
"Had Atanu also lost, there would have been questions and allegations. Who would have been blamed then?" Gurung said the new pair were shooting exceedingly well in the pracitce with consistent scores of 38-39.
"I can't really say what went wrong after they went on to the field. But at the practice range, they were hitting 39/38s consistently. Jadhav also had shot well in the morning," the coach said, citing an example of their comeback win against Chinese Taipei in the morning session.
Asked about the poor six by Jadhav, he said: "He was expected to be consistent after hitting three 10s but unfortunately he could not continue. He (Jadhav) said he faltered while trying to give something extra."
He further gave an example of the USA mixed pair team of Brady Ellison and Mackenzie Brown who made a shocking first round exit against Indonesia.
"It's a cruel sport, there will always be ups and downs, otherwise the world No. 1 Brady Ellison would not have lost," the coach concluded.
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