| 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
Ranchi, Aug. 2: On Wednesday 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.
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.