Deepika eyeing a fairytale finish at iconic Lord's

Deepika eyeing a fairytale finish at iconic Lord's

Winning a medal is my dream, my life

Her coy smile belies the fierce ambition; her reluctance to be under the spotlight is ironical too. Perhaps, it is this demeanour that has taken Deepika Kumari to the top of world archery.

In a sport that demands incessant concentration and ability to recoil within, the Jharkhand teenager has flourished and emerged as one of India’s best medal hopes in the London Olympics.

From targeting mangoes in the backyard to picking up the bow and giving a meaningful direction to her talent, Deepika has done it with a lot of fervour. Her progress has been rapid despite her preference for the demanding recurve format where the bow has adjustable string length and does not have a lens.

But Deepika’s shyness has found solace in the power of a bow and arrow. As a 15-year-old, she won the gold medal in Turkey and followed it up with one more at the 11th Youth World Archery Championships in the US, where she pulled off a thrilling victory (115-109) over Russia’s Sayana Tsyrempilova in the finals.

However, it was the gold in the Commonwealth Games which caught the imagination of the country and brought her to the limelight. In May, the 18-year-old won her first World Cup individual recurve gold medal at Antalya, Turkey where she beat Korea’s Lee Sung Jin by six set points to four in the final before becoming the world No 1.

Her rise instantly leapfrogged medal expectations from her but she is far from being swayed. She makes no bones that it is the Olympic gold she has set her heart on.

“Being world number one does not guarantee a medal. It means nothing unless I and all my team members perform well,” says Deepika, whose father is an auto-rickshaw driver and mother a nurse. “It is difficult for me to tell you what an Olympic medal means to me. I have been dreaming of it ever since I picked up the bow. It is my dream, my life.”

Deepika finds it rather unfair to be touted as the lone medal hope in archery. She insists the training of the whole team has been so good that they stand a chance in both individual and team event.

“Our preparations have been very good. We have had a lot of exposure trips and working with the Korean coach has really helped me improve technically. But why expect a medal from only me? Our whole team is good enough to get medals. We all have worked very hard,” she emphasises.

In the team event, Deepika is combined with senior archers Chekrawolu Swuro and Laishram Bombayala Devi and feels they have in them to compete against the best.

"Our combination is very good. We have trained together and we have improved a lot from the time we qualified. We have the confidence to compete against the best,” she assures.

It is Deepika’s first Olympics but she brushes away the talk of pressure with a gentle smile. “I don't feel pressure. The competition will be stiff but I will give my all to win a medal.”

The team prepared in hot and humid Kolkata before leaving for London to acclimatise to the cold and windy conditions. Deepika also had to battle a bout of flu and hoped to be fit before the competition.

“Weather will play a crucial role. How soon we adjust to the chill and wind will be decisive. But we are not afraid. We have done everything we could. Rest is in the god’s hand.”

The world may come knocking at her doors if Deepika’s arrows hit the bull’s eyes. It will be a fairytale finish that could well inspire countless others in native Jharkhand.

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