|Date of Birth||22 February 1984|
|Birth Place||Namchi, Sikkim|
|Sport/Event(s)||Archery – Men’s Recurve (Individual and Team)|
|Current World Ranking||54 (2021)|
|Major achievements||Team Silver at 2 World Championships (2005, 2019)|
Team Gold at Shanghai World Cup 2010
5 World Cup Men’s Team Silvers
Individual Silver at 2010 Asian Games
Team Bronze at 2006 Asian Games
Team Bronze at 2 Asian Archery Championships (2005, 2019)
Team Bronze at 2010 Commonwealth Games
Padma Shri (2020)
Arjuna Award (2005)
Tarundeep Rai’s career has followed an interesting pattern. He was just 20 when selected to be a part of India’s new-look archery team for the 2004 Olympics. He had to miss Beijing due to injury, was part of the London 2012 contingent, was overlooked for Rio 2016 and is now back in the reckoning for the Tokyo Olympics.
Over the past 2 decades, he has been the one constant witnessing the growth of archery in the country through medal hopefuls such as Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das, seeing Indians under-achieve at the Olympic stage and observing the stagnation of the sport due to federation politics.
A medal at what could possibly be his last Olympics would be the summit of a long and notable career.
Tarundeep Rai’s Career
Athens 2004 promised to herald a new beginning for Indian archery. Indians were making a comeback to the Games after 8 years and the squad for the first time included women archers. Rai was at that time among the youngest members of the team.
He was selected after winning gold in the 2004 Asian Grand Prix. At Athens, the youthful team’s inexperience came to the fore. Rai was eliminated in the first round while the Men’s team crashed out in the Round of 16 after losing to Australia.
At the following year’s World Championships, the Men’s team of Rai, Jayanta Talukdar and Gautam Singh won a momentous silver and announced India’s arrival at the global archery stage. Rai also won a Team bronze at the 2005 Asian Archery Championships. At the 2006 Doha Asian Games, Rai and the Men’s team added another feather in the cap of Indian archery after winning bronze.
Disaster struck in 2008 when Rai had to stay away from archery after a chronic shoulder injury. He was consequently not part of the 2008 Olympic squad and had to miss much of the 2009 season.
But he came back from an injury like only the most resilient of athletes can do. India hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games and archery was included in the program after many years. Rai won the Team bronze at Delhi and a month later won an Individual silver at the 2010 Asian Games in what remains the best performance of his career.
Also in 2010, he won his first-ever Team gold at the Shanghai World Cup. He qualified for the 2012 Olympics but he and the rest of India’s archery contingent suffered a repeat of 2004 with the exception that Rai lost in the 2nd round to a South Korean.
The years after London saw him ceding space to younger archers such as Atanu Das and Jagdish Choudhary. He also did not qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
In the last 2 years however his career has been rejuvenated. He won a Team silver at the 2019 World Championships after 14 years and a Team bronze at the Asian Archery Championships the same year. This booked his spot for Tokyo 2020.
Tarundeep Rai’s Family and Background
Tarundeep Rai will be the only representative from the state of Sikkim in India’s 120+ member Tokyo Olympic contingent. Footballer Bhaichung Bhutia is his cousin.
Rai is a product of the Army Sports Institute and is a sepoy in the 5th Gorkha Rifles. He is married to Anjana Bhattarai and has a 9-year old son named Nusam Singh Rai. His father Dil Bahadur has worked as a professional photographer.
He reportedly took up archery in childhood after being inspired by the famous 80s TV Serial ‘Ramayan’.
Chances for Tokyo Olympics
Unlike an Atanu Das or Deepika Kumari, most of Tarundeep Rai’s medals have come from the Team event.
The Men’s Team event has 12 nations competing. The Top 4 in the ranking rounds will get a bye to the quarterfinals whereas seeds 5-12 will participate in a Round of 16. All these will be held on the 26th.
The Individual round will be the most competitive since it has 64 participants. The Men’s individual finals will be held on 31st.
The one advantage that Rai has over others is experience. If he does do well at Tokyo, it would go down to him having knowledge of what it takes to compete at an Olympic stage.