From the hinterlands of the state to the world’s best woman archer, and now, a Padma Shri honouree, Jharkhand’s ace archer Deepika Kumari has achieved it all in the 20 summers she has seen as yet.
The Ranchi girl’s name was on Monday announced for the Padma Shri for her contributions to Indian archery.
Ranked the top woman archer in 2015, Kumari currently holds the number five position in international archery. A winner of two gold medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Kumari had also represented India in the 2012 London Olympics; however, she could not bag a medal.
“It’s a proud moment for all of us. It’s a dream award. We never imagined she would get the coveted Padma Shri title,” said Geeta Devi, Kumari’s mother, who stays at a village in suburban Ranchi.
“For a sportsperson like me there couldn’t have been a bigger moral booster than this award. I don’t have words to express my feelings,” said the archer, who is currently practising in Jamshedpur for the Rio Olympic Games in August this year.
Kumari’s parents and coach credit it to her sincerity, dedication and hardwork.
Her father, Shiv Charan Prajapati, said: “Deepika informed me about the award in the afternoon…I was speechless. All I could say was that my blessings were always with her”.
Prajapati still shuttles from Ratu to Ranchi every day on his auto to make a living.
Kumari’s coach Harendra Singh said she is the second archer in the country after Limba Ram to be honoured with Padma Shri.
Kumari grew up in a thatched hut in her village of Ratu Chatti, about 15 km from Ranchi, and practised with a handmade bow and arrow as a child before then chief minister Arjun Munda spotted her talent and took her to his academy in Seraikela, where she further honed her skills.
Introducing her to the media before she left for her maiden world championship, Munda had then said that she was a daughter to him. On Monday, he couldn’t hold his emotions when he heard that Kumari had been named for the Padma Shri.
“I am extremely happy for her. This Modi government is giving the Padma awards to the right and deserving ones,” he said.