Teenage archer Deepika Kumari, still struggling to come to terms with her first round loss at the London Olympics, says she cracked under pressure of competing at such a big stage and before she could realise what was happening the journey ended.
The entire archery team had a
nightmarish run in London, Deepika's performance being the most shocking as she went to the Summer Games as the World No 1 and as India's brightest medal hope. Her loss to Britain's Amy Oliver in the individual event completed a miserable outing for the archers.
"I was telling Poornima mam (coach) how it was all over within 10 Minutes of our arrival at the arena. It looked unreal and we laughed in disbelief," Deepika told IANS from Jamshedpur ruminating over the happenings at the iconic Lord's Cricket Ground.
Not many gave the men a chance of a medal, but everyone looked to Deepika in the individual as well as in the team event. The trio of Deepika, Chekrovolu Swuro and Laishram Bombayala Devi were ranked number two.
"Obviously nothing worked for us. We only focussed on the team championship and ended up badly in both categories. We came ninth in the ranking round and there was no way we could have gone ahead in the competition even if we had won the opening match against Denmark," said the 18-year-old.
Olympics is undoubtedly the biggest stage for an athlete, but Deepika and the other team members went to London riding on the back of impressive performances. The women's team had won a historic silver in the World Championships last year and Deepika had won a World Cup stage in Turkey.
Deepika, who is also a double Commonwealth Games gold medallist, says the atmosphere at the Olympics was incomparable to the other major international events.
"It might sound stupid but I never competed in surroundings like the one at Lord's. In World Cups and other majors, the initial rounds are held simultaneously, but in London all the matches were organised separately and in front of a packed and noisy crowds. We could not perform in the din and crumbled under pressure. It shows how weak mentally we were," she said.
The Jharkhand-born archer, back at training at the Tata Academy in Jamshedpur, is aware they have undone all the good work of the past with a disastrous show in London.
"Maybe, I could have done without the hype of being World No.1, the status was like a millstone around my neck.
"We will have to work a lot harder than what we have done in the past to have a shot in the next Olympics. Technically we are as good as anyone but we got a lot of work to do on the mental side of the game. More than a foreign coach, we need a psychiatrist.
"In addition to that, we must improve the way our national meet is conducted. There should be a proper stage and screen during the matches and a seating area for the spectators."
Age is on Deepika' side and she should be a different competitor at the future Olympic odysseys.
For now, she is preparing for next month's World Cup Final in Tokyo.
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