Deborah was just nine years old when the deadly tsunami struck the Car Nicobar air base where her father works. Her entire family was displaced due to the natural calamity and she had to spend a whole day on a tree to survive before rebuilding her life from nothing.
The 18-year-old can hardly convey how the family coped with the natural calamity in her broken Hindi but the tone of her voice in enough to tell the story of the struggle. But fighting adverse conditions to not just survive but also carve a niche for herself has been second nature for the girl who grabbed the best medal haul (1 silver and 2 bronze) for an Indian cyclist in the junior category of the Hero Asian Cycling championship in New Delhi.
The achievement is all the more special for Deborah as she was competing in her first major international tournament and had been fighting a bout of homesickness ever since she joined the national camp back in August 2012.
Her communication with fellow campers was restricted to a few pleasantries due to her lack of prowess in Hindi or English and an absence of a television at the camp, Deborah initially struggled to cope with the atmosphere emotionally till she decided to concentrate completely on her passion for cycling. The team management vouches that she one of the most hard-working cyclist in the camp and her natural endurance and strength makes her a find for the future.
During one of the high altitude training exercises, the campers were asked to participate in a rope climbing activity to test their strength. While even the men cyclist managed to achieve the target just once, Deborah repeated the feat thrice and the coaching staff was convinced that she was a special one.
But for better part of her childhood, cycling was a routine job for Deborah and she dreamed of making a career as a long jumper during her school days.
However fate had a different plan for the elder of two siblings. In one of the local games, Deborah brought along her cycle from Car Nicobar to Andaman islands to make up the numbers in that event too and went on to win the competition.
The experts and coaches watching her was so impressed with her style that they convinced her to shift from track and field to the cycling track and she has not looked back.
Deborah won two gold medals in the junior category in the 2012 Nationals in Amritsar and has been a regular part of the Indian squad since then. Given the right support, Deborah can not only manage to achieve far bigger feats but also be a role model for many youngsters from remote parts of the country to take up cycling as a sports career.