Deepika Kumari walks back after her defeat in the elimination round of the women’s archery individual event in London on Wednesday. PTI photo
kiye thhey, magar
haar gaye (Mummy,
I tried but lost).’
Ranchi, Aug. 1: This afternoon at 4.25pm India time, Geeta Devi heard some of the saddest words a mother could hope to hear.
An hour ago, daughter Deepika Kumari (18) had crashed out of the Olympic archery individual recurve contest in the knockout stage to Britain’s Amy Oliver in a humiliating upset defeat of 2-6, ending India’s hopes of an archery medal.
It was supposed to be Deepika’s dream Olympic debut, a dream that Jharkhand shared with dizzy anticipation. But world No. 1 lost to world No. 37 in the opening round. The dream proved wide off the mark, leaving fans, experts and the media shocked and bitter.
But a mother is different. So Geeta consoled her daughter. “Saare log khush hain yahan. TV pe bahut achchi lag rahi thi. Tu chinta mat kar aur London se humlogon ke liye kuch leke aana. (Everyone is happy. You were looking pretty on TV. Don’t worry and come back with gifts from London for us),” she told Deepika over the telephone.
| Deepika Kumari’s sister Vidya speaks to her over phone after her defeat in the London Olympics while her parents look on at their Ratu residence on Wednesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Parents Shiv Narayan Mahto and Geeta were at their semi-thatched, single-roomed house at Ratu, 25km from Ranchi. When the women’s individual archery event began at 3.26pm IST at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground, mummy went out to pray while dad watched.
In less than 15 minutes, hopes around Jharkhand ki bitiya bit the dust.
Deepika’s wildly inconsistent and insipid moves — not once did her arrow hit the yellow circle to mark a perfect 10 — have set tongues wagging about whether Tata Archery Academy and Archery Association of India did not do enough to train the prodigy for London’s windy conditions. But her parents seem to think she was under pressure after the team rout on Sunday.
“Deepika called me at 10 in the morning and sounded nervous. Pura bhaar medal ka sirf usi par tha. Maine kahan dil khol ke khelna aur kuch mat sochna. (The onus of bagging a medal rested solely with her after her team’s exit. I asked her just to focus on her game),” Geeta said.
But when one is 18 and nervous about handling the hopes of a billion people, one can’t be the mythological champion archer Arjuna.
Her parents also got to know some of the pressures their champion daughter faces.
Before the match, the local media had virtually gheraoed the tiny Ratu residence in anticipation of a winning scoop. When Deepika lost, everyone left.
The Telegraph stayed on for a chat.
Geeta said that her daughter confessed to her that by the time she got the hang of the London wind, it was “all over”.
Lady Luck was not by her side. “I don’t understand the game much but right from the start Deepika looked out of sync. But I am not troubled. She is a star for me irrespective of results. There is always next time. She will play at least three more Olympics,” Shiv Narayan said, asking wasn’t her reaching Olympics at 18 not achievement enough.
“Tell me who has reached Olympics at the age of 18? She started playing professionally four years ago,” said the proud father.
The parents also surfed TV channels to catch the news about their daughter. “Main dekhna chahti hoon ki news channel wale meri beti ko hero ya villain banate hain aaj, jaise cricket walon ke saath karte hain. Koi haarne ke liye nai khelta. (I want to see how media treats her today. No one plays to lose),” Geeta said.