Not bowing out yet: Deepika Kumari goes about her weight and treadmill routine at the JRD Tata Sports Complex gym in Jamshedpur last week. Pictures by Bhola Prasad
Deepika Kumari missed the bullseye in London. She cannot afford a repeat performance in Tokyo.
The archery World Cup final in Japan next month will be an acid test for the 18-year-old who will have to bow-beat the globe’s top eight to retain her No.1 rank.
With three Korean archers running neck-and-neck with Deepika, the task of claiming a medal will be no cakewalk. The teen will have to slot home nothing less than gold to hold on to her crown.
“It is a big challenge for Deepika,” said Purnima Mahto, the coach of the Indian women’s team. But, she added, that much should not be read into her ward’s dismal Olympics performance because the World Cup was altogether a different bow game.
“Crowd pressure will be much less in Tokyo. Besides, the weather won’t be as windy as in London. These are the plus points at Deepika’s disposal. She, however, has to take her Korean opponents into count. They will leave no stone unturned to prevent her from winning gold,” Jamshedpur-based Mahto, who went to London too as coach, pointed out.
The seasoned archer contended that her young disciple had the potential to excel in top-notch events and the World Cup was no exception. “Olympics was a far bigger platform for her. Besides, she was not in fine fettle and a bit nervous too,” Mahto, a six-time national champion, argued.
Deepika’s other mentor Dharmender Tiwary too agreed that nothing less than gold would enable her to retain her position. “Sirf aur sirf swarn padak hi Deepika ko number ek par barkarar rakhega (Only a gold medal will work the trick for Deepika),” he added.
On what rank would Jharkhand’s Golden Girl hold if she misses the yellow metal, Tiwary said she might slide to fourth or fifth. “She will, however, remain among the world’s top eight women archers,” the Tata Archery Academy chief coach said.
Deepika had finished seventh in the individual recurve in the World Cup (Stage-I) held in Shanghai (China) in April, but made amends by clinching gold in the Cup’s next edition in Antalya (Turkey) in May. She did not participate in World Cup (Stage-III) held in Ogden (US) in June.
Pressure notwithstanding, Deepika is tuning up well for the challenge in Tokyo. She has, finally, settled into a nice training groove after the Olympics flop show. “I will try and give my best shot in the final,” she said.
Will Deepika be able to retain her World No. 1 rank?