Who is Deepika Kumari? The ace archer secured a place for herself in the pre-quarterfinals of women’s archery singles at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. Emerging victorious in her 16th round, Kumari defeated the United States’ Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez 6-4 in a neck-to-neck competition.
Following Mirabai Chanu‘s spectacular silver in weightlifting on day one of the games, India is placing hopes in its sportswomen for big wins this year.
Alongside fellow sporting giants Pooja Rani in boxing and PV Sindhu in badminton, 27-year-old Deepika Kumari is among the Olympic medal hopeful women from the country. And the journey she has traced from Jharkhand to Tokyo, though fascinating, has not been an easy one.
All You Should Know About Who Is Deepika Kumari And Why Her Story Matters
The daughter of a rickshaw driver and former nurse in a small village named Ram Chatti near the capital of Ranchi, Kumari took an early interest in the sport of aim and shoot. Lacking adequate facility and equipment to play out her aspirations, she armed herself with stones to practice hitting mangoes off trees.
“Wahan pe ladkiyan kuch karti hi nahi hain. Jo unke parents hai, 18 saal ki ho jaati hai toh shaadi karke bhej dete hain,” Kumari, in Netflix documentary Ladies First, said recounting life as a small-town girl.
Though parental expectations were earlier veering towards the medical field, Shivnath and Geeta Mahto came around to stand tall behind their daughter’s dreams.
With one eye on the prestigious Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur, Kumari kept at her skill with makeshift archery tools made with bamboo.
After she stepped foot into the gates of the Academy in 2006, there was no looking back for young Kumari. With the proper training vital in moulding her into a professional archer, Kumari was closer to her goals than ever before. At only 15, she became the first Indian archer to clinch a win at the Cadet World Archery Championship.
Deepika Kumari’s Winning Streak: Pinning Hopes For Olympic Medal
World number 1 archer Deepika Kumari's father Shivnarayan Mahato continues to run his house through a mini tempo. "No work is big or small. This tempo has a huge role in my daughter's journey, and I will continue with this occupation. My children also encourage me," he said pic.twitter.com/KqkdAFCfcr
— ANI (@ANI) July 23, 2021
Once the tally for her winning streak opened, Kumari made bigger wins and came to international notice. She took home two golds at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, quickly cementing her place as India’s long-awaited archery genius in many years. With her wins at the 2013 Archery World Cup, 2015 Asian Championships, and 2015 Copenhagen World Championships, Kumari’s status as the World No. 1 in archery is formidable and inspiring.
Despite their persistent financial struggles, the Mahtos today say they are proud of their daughter and have immense faith pinned in her (as well as her husband and archer Atanu Das), “hoping that they would clinch gold for the country.”