Deepika Kumari, Indian archery’s blue-eyed girl looks to exorcise the London Olympics ghosts once and for all by a good performance at Incheon.
It’s a chance to set things right, to prove the detractors wrong and most importantly to prove to herself that she can still be the best once again.
The last year had been anything but rosy. The London Olympics debacle hit Deepika Kumari hard. The first-round exit as the World No. 1 was a jolt back to reality. She crumbled and got crushed under the burgeoning expectations on her young shoulders.
And then the fall from grace began. She slipped from the numero uno ranking to 19. The desperation to find solutions to her numerous problems followed as is common in every athlete’s career. Self-doubts crept in overshadowing the bubbling confidence she would once display regularly at elite archery events. The once prodigious archer was left out of the senior squad for the Stage I and Stage III World Cups.
The frequent change of coaches only added to her woes. Her technique had become flawed but she found no way to rectify it.
Deepika was only 18 at London but all these unfortunate events helped her grow older, wiser and to think with clarity. She understood going back to basics was the only way forward.
Deepika returned to her old, ‘lucky’ bow and to the man who knows her the best – Dharmendra Tiwary. Tiwary who had coached the precocious talent Deepika when she was starting out had the panacea Deepika needed.
There was a technical mistake regarding Deepika’s anchor position alignment. Tiwary not only rectified it but he also helped to soothe her nerves ahead of an important match. Slowly she learnt to take pressure in her stride. Unsurprisingly, flashes of the old, familiar Deepika started showing. At World Cup Stage IV, she won the gold in the women’s recurve team event while capturing the bronze in both the individual and mixed recurve events.
Today, Deepika is much wiser when she says, “I am under pressure but I have to make sure that it is under my control. I have to make sure that the pressure factor works in a positive way for me.”
The Indian team has tried in every way possible to infuse positivity into the archers and make them familiar with the Korean ambience ahead of the Asian Games. The blustery conditions which turned out to be a bane for Deepika at Lords in 2012 can be expected at Incheon too. And that is why the Indian team was brought to Gwangju by their Korean coach Lim Chae a good 15 days ahead of the competition where they got acquainted with the conditions and the local crowd.
The challenge in front of her is formidable though. Korean archers comprising Olympic and world champion Ki Bo-Bae will be a massive threat for the 2010 Asiad bronze medallist. With the Asian heavyweights all huddled together in this event, the competition is stronger than the World Cup.
But Deepika is up for it. The dimpled smile is back, the quiet confidence in her eyes is back and so is the unquenchable thirst for excellence. After all, she is on a mission of her own.
‘’After London, the Asian Games is the biggest sporting event and I will definitely try my best to forget the London nightmare by winning a medal in Incheon,’’ she says. Perhaps that statement, more than anything, proves how much eager she is to bury her own demons!