Deepika Kumari: Daughter Of Autorickshaw Driver Becomes India’s Olympic Gold Hope

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Deepika Kumari story: Star Indian archer Deepika Kumari is doing her utmost to keep away “negative thoughts” prior to the Olympics, however, she does accept that past failures will “play on her mind”. Back in 2012, she made it to the top ahead of the London Games but the Arjuna Award winner made a first-round exit crushing all expectations. In the Rio Games, too, she made a last 16 exit in individual and lost to Russia in team quarterfinals.

The archery champion who is going to the Tokyo Olympics as a world no 1, told PTI before leaving for the tournament, “I don’t want a repeat anymore. It’s past but yes, that will play on my mind and there would be some pressure on the back of my mind.”

The world has seen the champion Deepika Kumari regain her position after huge setbacks over and over again. The athlete, who will be the only Indian woman archer to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics, reclaimed her number one position in the global rankings following her hat-trick of gold medals at the World Cup Stage 3 last month.

Beyond the trial and tribulations

Born to Shivnath Mahto, an autorickshaw driver, and Geeta Mahto, who worked as a nurse at Ranchi Medical College, Deepika Kumari grew up in a village named Ram Chatti, which is about 15 km from the Jharkhand capital Ranchi. A cousin of hers recommended Kumari to join an archery academy after which she left home at the age of 12.

Back in the day, her family shared a home with her uncle and aunt, where fights about money were frequent. The young girl, watching her parents deal with countless problems, decided to get away from home.

Maine socha, main chali jaaoongi ghar se bahar toh kam-se-kam ek ka burden kam ho jayega (If I leave home there would be at least one less burden).”

When she got a year older, Deepika gradually began to gain interest in the sport. She started her initial career in Seraikela, Kharsawan for merely a year and got selected to join the JRD Tata Sports Complex and trained under her coaches Dharmendra Tewari and Purnima Mahato.

“Initially, I was not that interested in the sport, and in fact my cousin used to practice archery there. I had just heard of the sport. I used to watch the sport, and through that, and while staying at my cousin’s place, slowly my interest piqued and I started practicing archery,” she mentioned in the book She Dared, a compilation of the stories of Indian sportswomen.

The Padma Shri winner paved her way to become a world-renowned sports star from a place where women rarely get to make choices for themselves. In the Netflix documentary titled Ladies First, Kumari sheds light on the complexity of being a small-town girl and says, “Wahan pe ladkiyan kuch karti hi nahi hain. Jo unke parents hai, 18 saal ki ho jaati hai toh shaadi karke bhej dete hain (Girls there don’t do anything. And their parents marry them off when they turn 18.”

Making a the titlist Deepika Kumari

The myriad of hurdles couldn’t stop the force that Deepika Kumari was and the 15-year-old became the first Indian Archer to win the Cadet World Archery Championship in 2009. Besides that, the ace archer bagged the Youth World Archery Championship in the US later.

Just two years later, in the 2010 Commonwealth games, Kumari won two gold medals back home in Delhi making the world take notice of her.

Back in 2012, she won her first World Cup Gold medal in Recurve’s women’s individual. Kumari was in great form and had immense expectations going into the Rio Games. In the same year, she matched the world record feat of Korea’s Ki Bo-bae, scoring 686 out of 720 in the first stage of the World Cup in Shanghai. However, the athlete faced a huge setback after suffering a sudden unexpected dip in the round of 16.

Despite that, the 27-year-old was conferred with the Arjuna Award, India’s second highest sporting award in the same year. And four years later, she received the Padma Shri , the fourth-highest civilian award as well.

With the coming Olympics, the Indian archer, touted to be our nation’s best medal hope, has all eyes on her as she is set to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics along with her husband and archer Atanu Das.

Image Credit: Mediatimez.com

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