Kolkata: Deepika Kumari may reject all talk of pressure and nerves ahead of the London Olympics but the world number one archer's coach is becoming restless as the mega-event draws close.
"As the day approaches, my heartbeat is getting faster. I am getting restless. I know I'm more nervous than Deepika who is always calm and composed," Tata Archery Academy chief coach Dharmendra Tiwary said of his 18-year-old protege.
At a Kolkata selection trial for the 2008 Youth World Championships in Kundu-Antalya (Turkey), Deepika, then just 13, had finished last — sixth.
Yet, Tiwary was keen to select her for the TAA and, as it turned out, Deepika, daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver in Ranchi, made the cut for the Turkey-bound squad, finishing sixth in the team event and 13th individually in the cadet group.
The next year, she won the same meet to become the cadet world champion; in 2010, Commonwealth Games winner; in 2011 junior world champion; and this year she became the world champion to be number one in FITA rankings released last month.
"In my 18 years as a coach, I've not seen a talent like her. She is a complete archer, be it in skill, physique or temperament," Tiwary told PTI in an interview."
An archer is known from the eyes. When I saw her at SAI Kolkata, I knew she has something to go all the way. Her technique was sound, while mentally she was very strong.
"She has broad shoulders which is very essential for an archer to have wide drawing length (before releasing the arrow)."
Tiwary vividly remembers May 1, 2008, the day Deepika joined TAA.
"Impressed by her, I spoke to Deepika's then coach B S Rao (at the Arjun Academy in Sareikela-Kharsawan) and took her to the TAA. She joined on May 1, 2008," Tiwary recollected.
The coach said Deepika is not someone who will get bogged down by the grandeur of the Olympics.
"She does not get nervous, something that helps her to give her best. You won't find much of a difference in the scores she shot in practice or in an actual competition."
"When she first joined us, she was shooting in the range of 1150 (from 1400) which has now improved to around 1320. At a competition also, she shoots close to 1320, making her a tough competitor."
Tiwary said he would be the proudest man on earth if Deepika wins an Olympic medal which would be a first for Indian archer.
"I'm hopeful that she would return with a medal. It would do wonders for archery. More and more would start taking up archery. The infrastructure would develop, while more and more corporates would start taking interest. I would be the proudest man on earth."
Another TAA coach, Poornima Mahato, is accompanying the women's team in London and Tiwary met Deepika here before she left for the Games.
"I told her that age is on her side and she can easily compete in next two-three Olympics. 'So just go there and shoot', was my advice to her before they left for London."
The weather may not be ideal for the Indian archers in London with cold and rainy conditions but Tiwary was confident that Deepika would do well.
"She does not have any problem in cold weather. Moreover, the weather and the conditions would be same for all. So it depends who performs on the given day."
"They have gone there more than a week in advance. I hope they adjust themselves to the unpredictable weather there," he said.
Success might be following Deepika but Tiwary said her humble family — father Shivnarayan Mahato and mother Geeta Mahato — continue to live the way they did at Ratu Chatti, about 15km from Ranchi.
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