Gold winner Deepika was always on target – with mangoes!


New Delhi/Ranchi : She would target mangoes on trees as a child by throwing stones and seldom miss! On Sunday, as archer Deepika Kumari won her second gold at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), defying her humble family background, her kin and coach alike have little doubt that the Jharkhand teenager will take aim at the Olympics one day.

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Deepika, eldest daughter of autorickshaw driver Shivnarayan Mahato and nurse Geeta Mahato, hails from a village 12 km from Ranchi. She has become the first Indian individual gold medal winner in archery in the Games.

Deepika’s mother Geeta, a nurse in a primary health centre at Ranchi, was one proud woman. “Deepika was perfect in her aim since childhood. She hardly missed while targeting mangoes on trees with stones.”

But she also spoke of the odds that Deepika had to battle – among them poverty and initial family resistance. The teenager even had to practice with handmade bamboo bows and arrows.

“Initially it was difficult to provide her equipment and other facilities. We used to support her financially by cutting short our family budget. Her determination has helped her realise her dream,” said her mother.

“She has won the gold at the Commonwealth Games, but her goal is to win gold medal in Olympics,” said Geeta.

The Class 11 student was one of the highest rated archers in the Games and a gold was very much on the cards. “We expected her to win the gold,” a member of the national archery team’s coaching staff told IANS.

But what makes Deepika so special?

“It is her ability to have a good start, her boldness and confidence that make her a cut above the rest. Her big match temperament also helps,” said the coach.

The talent in Deepika first got noticed in 2005, when she was admitted to the Arjun Archery Academy set up by Chief Minister Arjun Munda in Seraikela-Kharsawa district.

In 2006, she joined Tata Archery Academy and she was provided stipend of Rs.500 per month and other facilities.

Over the last two years, Deepika has been making waves in the archery circuit. She was a key member of the women’s side that won the CWG team gold Friday, before getting a gold again Sunday.

“In the Asian Games next month in China also she may come good, though the archers from South Korea, China and Japan will be there,” the coach said.

She is being touted as an Olympic medal prospect by her coaches too. “The way she is going, it will be no surprise if Deepika wins a medal in the 2012 Olympics.”

Deepika shot into spotlight last year by becoming the cadet world champion in the US, and rocketed to world number four after her silver medal finish at World Cup archery Stage IV meet at Shanghai in September.

On Sunday, up against the experienced Alison Jane Williamson of England in the final at the Yamuna Sports Complex, Deepika kept her focus and concentration to bring the country a gold.

“I just focussed on not losing hope and concentrated on my shooting. I was hopeful of winning the medal. I just wanted to be more confident,” said Deepika, who won the final 6-0.