Purnima Mahto at the archery hostel at JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur on Friday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Dronacharya, archery coach to the princes of Pandavas and Kauravas, would have been impressed.
Archery coach Purnima Mahto (37) of Jamshedpur, who will receive the prestigious Dronacharya Award from President Pranab Mukherjee on August 31 in New Delhi, is a perfect example of woman power making a mark in a man’s world.
Purnima, former international medallist, made her mark as a coach at Tata Archery Academy where she mentored world-beater Deepika Kumari, and steered Team India women’s contingent at two back-to-back Olympics in Beijing and London.
The list of Drona awardees was approved by Union sports minister Jitendra Singh on Thursday. Purnima will get a bronze statuette of Dronacharya, a scroll of honour and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh from the President.
“I was keeping my fingers crossed till last evening when I got the news that yes, I am in. I dedicate this award to my family, my students and my employers at Tata Steel,” she said.
So have the celebrations begun at her Vijaya Garden residence in Baridih?
Purnima, modest as ever, said: “First, let me get the award. But yes, let me say that my parents-in-law Yadunandan Prasad and Sheela Devi, my husband Rajiv Ranjan Prasad and my son Siddharth have made me the person that I am. I couldn’t have done anything without their support.”
She stresses she is lucky to have “fabulous in-laws”. Her husband Rajiv, a shipping engineer, is often abroad. Purnima relies “heavily” on her in-laws to bring up her son, now a Class I student of Loyola School. “My son is now six-and-a-half years old. But even when he was six months old, I had to leave him with my mother-in-law for my stints. Hats off to her for understanding my needs always. Both my in-laws are amazing,” she said.
When told that her students think she’s pretty amazing herself, Purnima said: “I feel proud that Jharkhand is naturally endowed with some of the best archery talents. We need academies to hone them to global perfection.”
As a child, she used to watch archery at a range near her Birsanagar home. “I was fascinated. Then, I started training myself,” said the achiever who made her India debut in 1992 and hit the headlines by slotting home six gold medals at the 1994 Pune National Games.
She also claimed two silver medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Talk about her personal achievements and she turns philosophical. “I feel lucky and honoured. And I believe as a teacher I give back what I’ve got.”
Purnima is the second archery instructor from Jamshedpur to get the Drona. Six years ago, Sanjeeva Singh, the former chief of Tata Steel sports department, was the first.
In this age of self-promotion, she hasn’t even posted this news on her Facebook or Twitter accounts. “I’ll do all that with the picture at the ceremony, not before,” she said.
Archery apart, what does she like? “I am a complete family person. And I love listening to music,” smiled the yummy mummy.
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