Shooting star

“She is a highly motivated archer with sharp focus. Her hunger for success is something I have not seen in other Indian archers,” says Dharmendra Tiwary, the senior coach at the Tata Archery Academy, of Deepika Kumari. By S. Sabanayakan.

Deepika Kumari is, perhaps, the finest archer India has ever produced. Her performances both in India and abroad are enough indications that the 19-year-old girl from Jharkhand is emerging as the country’s numero uno archer.

Deepika has just missed out on a gold medal in her third successive World Cup final in Paris recently. Her 4-6 loss to the No. 1 archer, Yun Ok Hee of Korea, in the summit clash meant the Indian had to settle for the silver medal for the third time, having qualified for the final after four-stages of World Cup tournaments. Interestingly, Deepika has been figuring in the World Cup final since 2010.

Dharmendra Tiwary, the senior coach at the Tata Archery Academy that has shaped the destiny of Deepika ever since she joined the institution in 2008, had accompanied the young archer to Paris. “Deepika is the most feared archer in the world. The Koreans take her very seriously and never allow her to wrest the psychological advantage during their match-ups. Deepika began well with the first three arrows on 10s, but gradually Yun covered up and put pressure on Deepika. Needing a 10 to split the point in the third set, Deepika delayed releasing the arrow within the allotted time and was docked 10 points. She could never recover from the setback,” the coach recounted.

What makes Deepika champion material?

“She is a highly motivated archer with sharp focus. Her hunger for success is something I have not seen in other Indian archers. After Dola Banerjee, I think, Deepika is the best talent that has come up among women in India. Her early exit at the London Olympics still rankles her. She is determined to do well at the next Olympics in Rio,” Tiwary explained.

“I have successfully implemented a few changes to my shooting technique, on the advice of the Korean coach, Lim Chae Woong. Now I am able to shoot better,” said Deepika.

According to her, archery is a mind game. “It is all about how strong one is mentally. So mental training is very important. We need a psychologist to train us,” Deepika said. Born to Shivnarayan Mahato, an auto-rickshaw driver, and Geeta, a nurse, Deepika is from Ratu Chati Chowk, about 15 kilometres from Ranchi. She is the oldest of three children. Her sister Vidya is with the Tata Archery Academy and her brother Deepak lives with his parents.

Deepika began to bloom only after she joined the Tata Academy in Jamshedpur in 2008. Modern training, better diet and a regimented life made her pursue her dream with determination. She won the cadet World individual title in 2009 and followed it up with the junior World title in 2011. In between, Deepika won her first major senior title, the Commonwealth Games individual gold, by defeating Olympian Allison Williamson of England in the final.

“The best thing about Deepika is that she is very serious about her daily training. She has a very positive approach and looks for constant improvement. She is always willing to take ideas and tips from coaches and implement them during training. She is fearless and has enormous self-belief,” Tiwary said of his ward.

“I have been consistent this year and I am trying to get better. The World Cup outing was a good experience. Every time I play the Koreans I get to learn something new,” said Deepika.

Deepika began the season well, finishing runner-up to Yun Ok Hee at the Shanghai World Cup Stage 1. After a shock second round exit, against compatriot Rimil Buriuly, in Stage 2 in Antalya, Turkey, Deepika made it to the quarterfinals of Stage 3 (Medellin, Colombia), where she lost to Miranda Leek of the United States.

Deepika sealed a place in the Paris World Cup final by reaching the quarterfinals of Stage 4 (Wroclaw, Poland), where she lost to Yun Ok Hee.

Deepika has lost to Yun thrice this year. Purnima Mahato, who was with Deepika for years until the London Olympics, was conferred the Dronacharya Award this year for her contribution to archery. One of the high points of Purnima’s career was shaping Deepika into a world-class archer. Both hail from the same State, understand each other well and are part of the Tata Archery Academy. Deepika received the Arjuna Award in 2012. She is set to win many more laurels in the years to come.

Deepika Kumari competes in the World Cup final in Paris. the indian archer missed out on a gold medal in her third successive World Cup final, after losing 4-6 to the WORLD No. 1, Yun Ok Hee of Korea, in the summit clash.