Komalika Bari: Taking wings with arrows

World Archery Youth champion Komalika Bari won a silver medal in the individual and gold in the team recurve event at the Khelo India University Games.

World Archery Youth champion Komalika Bari will be travelling to Thailand for the Asia Cup in March.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

 

Komalika Bari's arrows fly at the speed of light, but her feet are firmly planted on the ground.

Hailing from Birsa Nagar, in the industrial hub of Jamshedpur, the 18-year-old became the second Indian woman recurve archer after Deepika Kumari to win a gold medal at the World Archery Youth championships last year.

The teenager has since climbed greater heights by claiming her spot in the Indian women's recurve team and came close to clinching a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her latest exploits came at the Khelo India University Games, where she won a silver medal in the individual and gold in the team recurve event.

Taking to archery

Growing up in the southern tip of Jharkand, Komalika wasn't very drawn into sports growing up. However, the opening of an archery training centre near her house opened up avenues for her. “My father wanted me to play a sport that won't take a toll on my body and would also allow me to focus on my studies. So when the training centre opened in our area, he enrolled me right away,” she says, before quickly adding, “He thought my mind power would increase too.”

She stays at the Tata Archery Academy, about a 45-minute drive from home, and manages all of her reponsibilities by herself. And she's also often the designated problem-solver for the tiny issues at home.

“Just yesterday I was scolding my brother,” she says. “Bohot badmash ho raha hai aaj kal (He's becoming very naughty these days!). I had to scold him because he wanted to use his phone despite his exams. And he's so young and still wants a phone – I never even saw one when I was his age!” she adds, animatedly.

READ: Komalika - Gifted with natural strength

While it's easy to get carried away with her success, Komalika shows a sense of maturity that is well past her age. Her mother works in an anganwadi (rural childcare centre), while her father is unemployed and does odd jobs around. The youngster is aware the financial situation at home isn't the best and is eager to give back.

“I feel like it's my turn to provide for my parents. I want to be able to give them everything they want and fulfill all their needs,” she tells Sportstar.

“When I came back from the World Championships, my parents told me to ask for whatever I wanted, but I simply froze. My brain simply “hangs” when they ask me, get it?” she adds in earnest.

When prompted if she would perhaps ask for a new phone, she says, “No, I already have one!” How about clothes? “I don't ask my father for clothes because his taste isn't great (laughs)”

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Gold medallist Komalika Bali (left) wasn't drawn to sports growing up.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

 

Komalika has seen money come in from her wins and scholarships, but she remains grounded. She's keen on saving and tries to stay away from frivolous spending, for most parts at least.

“So, I have two accounts. All my prize money goes into one account, but I don't have access to that one - no access to the ATM or the passbook. I ask my father when I need the money and he transfers it to my other account, without ever questioning why I want it. He only tells me to spend it wisely,” she says.

“But when I'm with the seniors I end up spending a lot! (giggles)” she adds. “They are all into branded stuff, but I am just getting started. The seniors have already reached that level, but I am just now getting there. So I need to be self-controlled. But sometimes I slip up and end up splurging,” she concedes.

Path ahead

Komalika has a hectic month ahead - she will be going to Thailand for the Asia Cup and will then have to battle college exams right after her return.

“I had gone for the Olympics trials but did not make the cut. But no worries, I gave the Asia Cup trials and got in there! I'll be going to the national camp in Sonepat next week before heading to Bangkok from March 7-15,” she says.

“And my university exams begin on March 17, a day after we come back! I think I can give my exams later on, the college is pretty adjusting,” she adds sheepishly.