Deepika Kumari on making it to Olympics with husband Atanu: We have our personal pressure
“I’m happy to have won at the World Cup. After a long hiatus, we really needed a win to bolster our confidence, both at the individual and the team level. We played tournaments after over a year, and it was important for us to figure out where we stand as players and where we need to work,” says Deepika Kumari, India’s archery medal prospect at the Tokyo Olympics, who claimed a gold medal at the recently concluded World Cup Stage I, in Guatemala City.
The pandemic has been hard on the 26-year-old two-time Olympian archer. However, things looked bright for a brief while when she tied the knot with fellow archer Atanu Das in June 2020. She recalls, “In the beginning, it was great! We spent a lot of time with our family, had tons of home cooked food, everyone was extremely happy. But that soon gave way to boredom and stress about our future games. There was no plan during the pandemic, and it was weird for us, as sportspersons, to work without a concrete plan.”
Now, Kumari and Das have both qualified for the Tokyo Games, making them India’s first couple in that arena! Presently training at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, along with Das, Kumari says, “It’s exciting to be the first, but it doesn’t affect us. We have our own personal pressure to do well at the Olympics. We train together at the camp, but there we are a team. We come back home and are your regular couple... we sometimes discuss our games once we are back from the training, but that’s about it.”
Kumari, who came to the limelight after winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal at 15, says her third appearance at the Olympics is certainly going to be different that the previous two. “It’s going to be a challenge this year; we aren’t getting to play as many tournaments as we usually do and we haven’t won a medal in archery yet, so that also is a lingering concern. But I’m learning how to control my thoughts. I believe this sport is all about controlling your mind in order to perform better. It’s so important to stay calm in the face of stress. You might be worried about losing, or get distracted by the audience. In those moments, only a calm head can help you hit your target,” add the Ranchi born sportsperson.
She’s been no stranger to hard work and determination, as exhibits her dream journey from penury to podiums, which still inspires her. “I picked up archery at the age of 13, when I got selected to train at Seraikela-Kharsawan archery academy in Jharkhand. My family’s condition wasn’t great at that moment, and my aim was to reduce the financial pressure on my family. I’m glad I made that choice since the sport is extremely interesting and gritty,” she recollects, adding, “People think the game is very easy. Bas teer marna hai. But there’s so much technique that goes into getting that perfect shot. I hope we win a medal this year, and take the sport to even greater heights!”
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika