Deepika Kumari became world number one in 2012, and her buildup to the London Olympics was so good that a medal looked certain. However, the intense spotlight had made her uneasy. And, at Lord's stadium, she faltered. The archer from Jharkhand was knocked out in the first round. Deepika was shattered and in tears.
It took a while to recuperate, and she made sure she stayed away from the hype this time around. She has barely spoken and has trained “in-camera”.
“I have unfinished business with Olympics,” she said, recounting her Olympic experience in a recent book. Deepika has reignited hopes of a medal after she equalled the world record of 686 (of 720) set by London gold medallist Ki Bo Bae of South Korea.
Deepika teams up with another experienced Olympian Laishram Bombayla Devi and Laxmirani Majhi. They qualified after winning a silver medal at the World Archery Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year. “Laxmi has been part of the team for the past two World Cups, so she is settled in,” said veteran archer Dola Banerjee.
The archers left for Brazil a month in advance and Banerjee says the preparations have been perfect. The team trained in Marica and shifted to a hotel in Centro, which is closer to the archery venue.
“They would have become acclimatised by now,” said Banerjee. “I don't think weather will be an issue like it was in London. I feel definitely we have a chance to get one medal from archery this time.”
The team has been put through intensive training—technically, physically and most importantly, mentally. After the London letdown, the Archery Association of India provided a psychologist to its female archers.
While consistency is the key worry, the new format—knockouts after qualification—had added an element of uncertainty, said Banerjee. “Any one who qualifies at a lower rank can come and beat a top-ranked archer now,” she said.