How Archer Deepika Kumari, the Daughter of a Rickshaw Driver, Made It to Rio

Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi

Jharkhand archer Deepika Kumari’s unwavering focus and determination have made her India’s hope for a medal in archery in the Rio Olympics of 2016.

Ever since Deepika Kumari arrived in Rio, the ghosts of London’s 2012 Olympics seem to haunt her. The women’s team went down to Russia on Sunday as the Jharkhand archer buckled under pressure.

However, Deepika’s passion for archery and belief in her abilities have seen her through many challenging times, and this will be no different. Deepika has brushed off the poor performance of the past and has now focussed her attention on the individual event in which she hopes to win a long-pending medal for the country.

  • The archery event began in Rio even before the Opening Ceremony. Even though the women’s team – Deepika, Laishram Bombayla Devi and Laxmirani Majhi – qualified, they merely scrapped through and finished seventh in the qualification.
  • On Sunday, the team went down 4-5 to Russia in the quarterfinals of the women’s recurve competition. Tuiana Dashidorzhieva, Ksenia Perova, and Inna Stepanova held their own and carried Russia to a 25-23 margin after the teams were tied 4-4.
  • Unfortunately, Deepika buckled under the pressure. Although she was required to shoot a perfect 10, she could only manage an 8 at the Sambodromo arena.
  • Strong winds of about 37 km/h at the Samba Street didn’t make things easier for Deepika; forcing the Jharkand archer to cite windy conditions as one of the reasons she couldn’t deliver her best.
  • In the individual round, Deepika will face 45th ranked Kristine Esebua of Georgia.
    Even after her disappointing performance in the Qualifiers, she remained confident of her abilities.

Why are her accomplishments special?

  • The biggest archery hope of the country may have failed in the team event, but her journey is nothing short of inspirational. From a very young age, Deepika’s determination and unwavering focus set her apart from the rest.
  • Deepika’s father Shiv Narayan Mahato is a rickshaw driver in Ratu, Ranchi (Jharkhand). Even today, he continues his work as a rickshaw driver, earning Rs. 200 a day.
  • The family earned Rs. 1,500 per month and lived in a modest hut. Yet this never hampered Deepika’s drive to succeed.
    Deepika started by using homemade bows and arrows, using mangoes as targets.
  • She only got proper equipment in 2006, when she joined the renowned Tata Archery Academy and started receiving a stipend of Rs 500 per month.
  • An 11-year-old Deepika in 2005 is reported to have told Meera, who runs an archery academy in Kharsawan and is the wife of the then CM of Jharkand, “Just give me three months. And please throw me out if I don’t perform.” And perform she did.