Deepika Kumari is an Indian archer who has represented the country on many international platforms. She won the coveted World No.1 position in the World Archery Cup in the year 2012 and has managed to remain in the top 10 ever since. She has won medals in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships. She has been conferred with the Arjuna Awardand the Padma Shri. The Documentary, ‘Ladies First’ by Uraaz Bahl, which tells the story of Kumari’s life, featured and won an award at the London Independent Film Festival. In conversation with the Knowledge Tribal Rashmi Furtado, Kumari traces her journey and opens up about the exclusives in the life of an Indian maverick.
Q: How and when did you get interested in archery?
I got interested in archery in the year 2007 at the age of 13. I had gone to the training centre in Seraikela, Kharswan, which is in Jamshedpur. Initially, I was not that interested in the sport, and in fact my cousin used to practice archery there. I had just heard of the sport. I used to watch the sport, and through that and while staying there, I slowly got interested and started practicing archery.
Q: What has your training background looked like over the years?
I began training in Saraikela, Kharswan as an archer. After training there for a year I got selected to join the J.R.D. Tata Sports Complex, where I train now.
Q: Which is your favourite moment from your career as an archer?
When I became the world champion for the very first time and I stood on that podium, representing my country. That was one of my most cherished moments. And now, few people recognise me and want to acknowledge my work so that feels nice too.
Q: In the near future, would you like to become a coach to the younger crowd of archers?
I have not given coaching a thought yet, but I want to start an academy and get coaches who would train future archers. I would like to provide others an easy opportunity to explore the sport.
Q: What is your stance on the country’s understanding of archery as a sport?
Our country needs to pay more attention to archery. Nobody knows the game well enough and even after we win the medals, nobody makes an effort to know the game or its rules. For people, it is a boring game to watch and people don’t want to watch it. It is important for the country to understand the game. It is not just about shooting arrows, which is a notion people generally have for the game.
Q: In 2017, you won the Vogue’s Young Achiever Award. What will be your message to the youth of the country?
The one thing that I would like to say is that focus on one thing and not be too scattered with your interests. Be disciplined in whatever you do, with of course, dedication and hard work. Just follow this simple rule and you are bound to do well.
Q: How have your coaches shaped you as a sportsperson?
I have two coaches, Dharmendra Tiwari and Purnima Mahato. They have been my coaches since I joined J.R.D. Tata Sports Complex. My coaches not only train me in archery but have trained me in life. For example, when they teach us about confidence in archery, it applies to my life as well. It is that very confidence which lets us perform in front of a crowd or talk to people we don’t know. All the principles I learn as a sportsperson, automatically apply to my personal life as well.
Q: What are the difficulties or problems that you have faced in the field of archery?
As such difficulty in playing and performance does not occur. But there are times when I am not able to perform well. That affects the way people perceive me. They either get negative or stop talking to me. They question my work, complain that I’m not working hard enough, that I do not have enough focus. They say I don’t concentrate and that’s why my performance is dipping. In such times, they start questioning and doubting whether I will win medals again. Now, what they do not realise is that this is a game and no one person can win every single time or perform the same always.
Q: So, how do you tackle such problems?
From my side I just let it be, because I do not know those people. Explaining our stance is not an option as they tend to see these as excuses. I’ve learnt to make peace with the talk and just focus on improving my skill. I work harder and try to answer such doubts through my work. I do not let this negativity affect my work.
There is so much to learn from the most successful archer from the country. At such a young age, she has achieved enough to make most us Indians proud, and given the rest a benchmark to aspire to. She gives the country inspiration that everyone can live their dreams and pursue what they love, we just need to want it bad enough.