Having learnt a lesson at the last edition of the Games, where the Indians went haywire in the windy conditions of Athens, the Archery Association of India (AAI) is acclimatising the Beijing-bound archers in "all kinds of weather conditions".
The Beijing-bound quartet of Mangal Singh Champia, Dola Banerjee, Laishram Bombayla Devi and Vardhineni Pranitha are finetuning their skills at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Eastern Centre at Salt Lake in Kolkata under the watchful eyes of Korean coach Lee Wang Woo for three-and-half hours each in the morning and in the afternoon, for many months now.
Touted as the "medal hopes", the archery contingent led by Athens-returned Dola knows that the onus is on them and the AAI is in no mood to leave any gap in their preparation.
"We are going there to give a tough competition and win medals but not just to participate. The only thing we need now, is a little bit of luck to convert our performance into medals... We have a fair medal chance, and the women's team event seems easier," AAI general secretary Paresh Nath Mukherjee told PTI from Kolkata.
"We selected Kolkata as the practice venue because the weather here is perfect. With the city having witnessed a good monsoon, the archers were exposed to all kinds of weather.
They have shot in no wind, medium wind and heavy wind conditions. Even there were damp and muddy conditions... Heavy humid conditions, similar to that of Beijing, sometimes," he added.
An avid archery fan, Mukherjee himself goes everyday to see the day-to-day proceedings. Interestingly, the Korean coach has even moved the venue from the usual shooting range to the football field to have a field of big arena.
"The mood is quite upbeat. Everything has been scientific and has gone as per schedule... Even Dola has found her rhythm back. She is as confident as in 2007... when she had clinched the individual recurve gold medal at the fourth leg of the archery World Cup at Dover (England) last year," women's team coach Purnima Mahato, who will accompany the archers to Beijing, said.
However, Dola's road to Beijing was not cakewalk. After hitting bad form in recent World Cup meets, the veteran archer from Railways had to face a selection trial in June this year where she along with 17-year-old rookie Pranitha joined 21-year-old national champion Bombayla, who had already made the cut after finishing 32nd in the Outdoor Archery World Championship in Leipzig, Germany last year.
Delighted to gain her momentum back, 28-year-old Dola said, "I'm now shooting in the range of 110 points, a good score as per Olympic standards. But it all will depend on that particular day. With competitions consisting 12 arrows now -- earlier it was 18 -- there's a little margin of error. However, we all are doing well and can expect something."
India's women squad, competing in team and individual events, have a blend of youth (Pranitha) and experience (Dola and Bombayla), said Mukherjee. Having topped the selection trials, the stocky built Pranitha is at her peak.
"I'm not going to be bogged down in the Olympics arena... I'll give my best shot, the rest is up to God," said Pranitha. Pranitha's first claim to fame came at the Cadets (Under-16) World Championships at Merida, Mexico (October 2006) where she bagged a silver after going down to Australian Jane Waller by a narrow margin of four points.
Another Railways archer, Mangal Singh Champia will be the sole representation from India in the men's recurve section. The 23-year-old from Jharkhand had clinched the Beijing berth by winning silver in the Continental Qualification Tournament that followed the main event, the Asian Archery Championship at Xi'an, China in September, 2007.
However, the men's team comprising Athens-returned Tarundeep Rai, Somai Murmu and Rahul Banerjee bowed to the Italian trio by one point in the tie-breaker of the World Outdoor Archery Championship in Leipzig last year to miss the Beijing berth.
Save the 2000 Sydney Games, India have competed in archery since the 1988 Seoul Games in South Korea. The Athens edition, saw India fielding Satyadev Prasad, Tarundeep Rai, and Sawaiyan Majhi and Dola, Reena Kumari, and Sumangala Sharma in the men's and women's sections respectively.
In individual events, Satyadev had the best finish of 10th place, followed by Tarundeep (43rd) and Majhi (59th). The women's individuals saw Reena finishing 15th, followed by Sumangala (24th) and Dola (52nd), while the men's team had an 11th place finish.