Winning an Olympic medal is my only goal: Deepika Kumari

Biswajit Jha

India is not a country known for its sporting talent. Bereft of sporting heroes other than cricket, anyone who becomes the top-ranked player in his or her respective sport, or wins an Olympic medal, instantly becomes a blued-eyed boy/girl. Abhinav Bindra, Leander Paes, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal…the list is not very long.

The latest edition to the list is Deepika Kumari, who became World No. 1 in Women`s Recurve Archery just a few days back and has given rise to a serious hope for an Olympics medal in her category.

A village girl from Jharkhand, Deepika may be just 18 years old, but the tall order of her achievements so far is staggering - in 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Deepika won two gold medals, one in the individual event and other in the women`s team recurve event; she won gold in World championship at Mérida (Mexico) in 2006; in 2009, at an age of 15 she won the 11th Youth World archery Championship held in Ogden, USA; she also won a gold medal in the same competition in the women`s team recurve event along with Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi; in 2010 Asian Games Deepika, as a part of the Indian archery recurve team, along with Rimil Buriuly and Dola Banerjee, edged out Chinese Taipei 218–217 in the bronze play-off to ensure a podium finish at the Aoti Archery Range and in May 2012, Deepika Kumari won her first World Cup individual recurve gold medal at Antalya, Turkey.

Having achieved so much, Deepika will leave no stone unturned in getting the country’s first Olympic medal in archery. Practicing at SAI Eastern Centre in Kolkata, a shy Deepika told over the phone: “I am totally focused on Olympics. I am practicing really hard under my coaches.”

Can we expect a medal from women’s archery team after her ascendancy to No. 1 ranking? Deepika is not ready to give importance to the No. 1 ranking. She wants to be focused on her dream of winning a medal in London Olympics.

“I don’t want to think too much about the rankings. Like every sportsperson, I too want to win a medal in Olympics,” said the daughter of a proud auto-rickshaw driver.

Will the No. 1 ranking, the media glare on her just before the Olympics affect her mission of winning an Olympic medal? We put this question to her long-time coach Poornima Mahato. Mahato says that Deepika is such a focused girl that these things don’t affect her very much.

“I initially did not give her the news of her becoming No. 1 because I did not want her to lose focus before the Olympics.”

“But when media started calling me, I broke the news to her. She was very happy but at the same time she does not want to shift her focus away from preparations for Olympics.”

“Actually, this is her biggest strength. She never gets satisfied. She sets her targets really high,” said the coach.

Mahato is optimistic about India’s chance of winning medal in archery. The chance has increased after men’s team also qualified for the Olympics: “I am really happy that our men’s team has also qualified. We have very good chance of winning medal in archery.”

The team has had very good training at Gangtok and according to Mahato, the facilities were really impressive. The focus of training now revolves around mainly practicing for and against the wind. Keeping the English summer in mind the team is also practicing in the rain so that the players don’t face any problems if they encounter rain in London.

With Deepika Kumari reaching the ‘numero uno’ spot in the world, we can expect an Olympic medal from the women’s archery team consisting of Deepika, Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro.

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