Deepika Kumari is India’s ace woman archer. Ranked World number 1 in 2012 and currently ranked World number 5, she is a top notch archer with an enviable list of credits to her name since she first started her career in the sport in 2005.
Gold medal in 2010 Commonwealth Games in the women’s individual recurve event, followed by gold medal in the team event also with Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi, (eight place in the London Olympics in 2012 because of high fever and strong winds unfortunately), she is the recipient of the 2012 Arjuna Award, followed by Padma Shri in 2016. She stands a chance and aims to win the gold medal at the Rio Olympics starting Aug.5th, 2016. Olympic Gold Quest, a not-for-profit foundation supports her like for other Indian athletes. Her moment of reckoning will be after 9.30 P.M. on Aug.5th when the archery ranking rounds begin and where she will be pitted against the best archers of the world.
A difficult start in life
Deepika Kumari was born to Shivpujan Mahato, an auto-rickshaw driver & his wife Geeta Mahato, a nurse at Ranchi Medical College, at Rati Chati village, 15 Km from Ranchi, capital city of Jharkhand. As a child whilst trying for mangoes with stones, the idea of archery came to her. In her early days her parents found it hard to support her dreams of becoming an archer with the costly equipment needed to practice. At the time, her parents earned Rs 1,500 per month. “They lived in a modest hut. The family took months to replace the khapras (broken tiles) on the roof. They could not afford a maid. When at home, Deepika helped her mother do the dishes and the laundry,” recalls neighbour Sadhucharan Mahato. She had to make-do with home-made bows and arrows.
Seeing her intense desire, her father took her to the Arjun Archery Academy at Kharsawan, that had been set-up by Meera Munde, wife of the chief minister of Jharkhand, Shri Arjun Munde. Deepika had so much self-belief that she told Meera, “Just give me three months. And please throw me out if I don’t perform”.
A promising career for a bright lass
Deepika’s cousin Vidya Kumari residing at Tata Archery Academy, Jamshedpur, that nurtures young talent in that discipline, further helped her develop her talent. In 2006 she could join the Academy, got a monthly stipend of Rs.500, a uniform and the equipment needed to practice for the sport, and her true professional career began. So very devoted she was from day one that in three years she went home only once, that too after winning the Cadet World Championship in November 2009.
Achievements by the dozen
- Deepika became the second Indian to win the title after Palton Hansda won the junior compound competition in the 2006 Archery World Cup in Mérida, Mexico.
- At 15, she won the Youth World Archery Championship held in Ogden, USA, in 2009. She also won with Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi, the gold medal in women’s recurve team event.
- In 2010, the Delhi Commonwealth Games saw her get two gold medals for Individual and Team events. Sahara Sports Awards Ceremony in 2010 saw her get the Outstanding Performance at CWG (Female) Award.
- In the 2012 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, she lost the bronze medal to Kwon Un Sil of North Korea in the women’s individual archery event. But in the team event with Rimil Buriuly and Dola Banerjee, they edged out Chinese Taipei in a nail biting finish score of 218-217.
- In May 2012, she won her first World Cup individual stage Recurve Gold Medal at Antalya, Turkey. Later she also went on to become World No.1 in Women’s Recurve Archery in the same year. That year’s Olympics in London was disastrous for her for losing in the opening round itself, owing to high fever and strong winds, to Amy Olivier of Great Britain.
- Strong comeback in 2013, by winning the Gold Medal in Archery World Cup stage 3 at Medellin, Columbia. She won the Silver Medal in 2013 in the FITA Archery World Cup in the same year.
- 2014, she failed to make it to the Indian team, finishing outside the top four.
- 2015 again she dominated the scene with her first world bronze medal in the individual event. the team narrowly lost the gold medal to Russia.
- Also in November 2015 she got a bronze medal in the Asian Championships with Jayanta Talukdar in the Recurve Mixed Team event.
In April 2016 at the first stage of the World Cup in Shanghai, Deepika equaled Ki Bo-bae’s world record of 686/720.
Her list of major achievements will give a good idea as to how she has surpassed all expectations
- Silver , Mixed Recurve Team, Archery World Cup 2016, Antalya
- Silver , World Championships 2015, Denmark
- Gold , Recurve Team World Cup 2014, Poland
- Bronze , Individual, World Cup 2014, Poland
- Gold , Recurve Team, World Cup 2013, Colombia
- Gold , Recurve Team, World Cup 2013, Poland
- Silver , Recurve Individual, World Cup Final 2012, Tokyo
- Gold , Recurve Individual, World Cup Stage 2 2012, Antalya
- Silver , Recurve Team, World Cup Stage 1 2012, Shanghai
- Silver , Recurve Team, Asian Grand Prix 2012, Bangkok
- Bronze , Recurve Team, Asian Archery Championships 2012, Iran
- Silver , Recurve Individual, World Cup Final 2011, Istanbul
- Gold , Recurve Team, World Cup Stage 4 2011, Shanghai
- Bronze , Recurve Individual, World Cup Stage 4 2011, Shanghai
- Silver , Recurve Individual, World Cup Stage 3 2011, USA
- Silver , Recurve Team, World Cup Stage 3 2011, USA
- Silver , Recurve Team, World Championships 2011, Torino
- Bronze , Recurve Team, World Cup Stage 2 2011, Antalya
- Bronze , Recurve Team, Asian Games 2010, China
- Gold , Recurve Individual, CWG 2010, New Delhi
- Silver , Recurve Team, World Cup Stage 4 2010, Shanghai
- Silver , Recurve Team, World Cup Stage 3 2010, USA
This 22 year old (born June 13th, 1994) is now all set to try and get a gold in Rio and the nation backs her to the hilt for an outcome that would bring glory to the nation. Let us keep our fingers crossed for this plucky lady who will have travelled miles from Ratu to Rio, a distance that is much more than the actual one.