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Deepika Kumari's Journey from an Emaciated 12-year-old to India's Olympic Medal Prospect at Tokyo

Deepika Kumari will be looking for her maiden medal at the Games. (AFP Photo)

Deepika Kumari will be looking for her maiden medal at the Games. (AFP Photo)

Deepika Kumari who is now the number one archer in the world is the lone Indian participant in the women's individual event.

From being rejected as an emaciated 12-year-old kid, to throwing a challenge to prove herself in three months’ time to India’s top medal prospect at Tokyo Olympics, world no 1 archer Deepika Kumari is a story of grits, guts and gumption. A journey that started from Arjun Munda’s Academy in Kharsawan, a small town surrounded by the idyllic Chandil-Gamharia forest range, rose to prominence at the Tata Archery Academy which later became her ‘second home’.

It all began during the summer of 2006, when Deepika visited her best friend-cum-cousin Deepti Kumari at Lohardaga, about 70kms from her hometown at Ratu in Ranchi during her vacations. Deepika thought to take up archery and follow the footsteps of her cousin to reduce the financial burden of her father, an autorickshaw driver and mother who used to work as a nurse.

After returning to Ranchi, she and her parents, Shivnarayan and Geeta Mahato, visited Meera Munda, wife of then Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda to request her to enroll Deepika at their academy in Kharsawan. “Tumse to bhari dhanush hai, yeh sab nahin hoga tumse! (You can’t do this, even the bow looks heavier than you!),” Meera Munda had told Deepika.

However, her parents somehow managed to convince Meera, who then asked the academy coaches to take a trial for Deepika. Riding pillion on motorcycle with her father, Deepika reached the academy but there too she faced rejection from the academy coaches B Srinivas Rao and Himanshu Mohanty, recalled Sumanta Chandra Mohanty, the secretary of Saraikela-Kharsawan Archery Association.

However, unfazed Deepika again went to meet Munda’s wife. “This time, she took a three-month challenge to prove herself at the academy and Meera Ji wrote a letter in official capacity to enroll her,” Mohanty said in an interaction with.

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