When she lost at the Rio Olympics, she called me and said, "Papa, all my hard work of the last four years turned to nothing in those 15 minutes. I told her - just hang in there. Only those who fall will eventually rise. Those who lose eventually win. Now I have just one target- winning the Olympic Gold medal.
Is it possible for a girl, who used to practice archery with equipment made out of bamboo, to become World No. 1 at the age of 18. It's nothing but INCREDIBLE to achieve such a feat. And guess who pulled off it? Deepika Kumari, a daughter of an auto rickshaw driver. With adding many feathers to her cap, she has clinched medals (mostly gold) in the World Cups, Asian Archery Championships, the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and the Asian Games. The story of the two-time Olympian from a small hut in the village of Ram Chatti near Ranchi, Jharkhand, is intriguing.
Deepika was 14 when she picked up a bow and arrow. She had gone to her grandmother's place when her cousin informed her about the Kharsawan archery training center. She was willing to join that small training center but why? Because the training had all the facilities - food and clothes were free for the students and she thought it would reduce her family's economic burden. At first, Deepika's father refused to send her daughter 200 km away for the "Log kya Kahenge" thing. But it was her mother who agreed to send her as she wanted her daughter to become independent like her. Eventually, her father also finally gave in to let Deepika follow her dreams.
Deepika's coach at the center rejected to give an admission as she thought she was very weak but her passion in her eyes was so big that the coach admitted her to the center. She started training in the academy. When she first went to Kharsawan, she was very excited but over time she got disappointed. "There were no bathrooms. We had to bathe in the river. Wild elephants would wander at night, so we were not allowed to go out for nature's call. As I got more and more engrossed in archery, then all problems took a back seat, and all my focus was on the game. I got a recurve bow soon enough and I started shooting with it. Eventually, I fell in love with it."
With her achievements in small competition, Deepika started to rise and rise. She couldn't believe it when she sat on a plane for an overseas tournament. She kept thinking, "I'm on a bus? I kept pinching myself. Am I really on a plane?! Traveling overseas for a tournament was a dream come true. There was a time when my parents stayed hungry to feed us. It feels good to make them proud. " She started to bring medals for the country from various international competitions. Deepika says, "If I come back empty-handed from a tournament, I feel like I've lost everything. All my hard work seems to have amounted to nothing. " Nevertheless, things never go our ways always!
Deepika could not dominate at the Rio Olympics 2016 as she wanted. When she lost at the Rio Olympics, she called me and said, "Papa, all my hard work of the last four years turned to nothing in those 15 minutes. I told her - just hang in there. Only those who fall will eventually rise. Those who lose eventually win. Now I have just one target- winning the Olympic Gold medal." It is not even a medal, it is a gold medal she thrives for. Given Deepika's recent performance, bagging three gold medals in the Archery World Cup Stage 3 in Paris, India could definitely hope for one gold medal from the lone women archer representing India at the upcoming world's biggest sporting event.