Deepika Kumari has done it again. And you don’t even have to strain your ears to hear whispers that she is an overrated archer, winning events of little note and not delivering on the biggest platforms. Some of that may be true as she has not won a medal in multi-discipline Games after a team bronze in 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
Of course, the archer, whose rise from a humble family in Ranchi caught the nation’s fancy when she won a double gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi nearly eight years ago, has sparked the eternal debate yet again after having to return home without a medal in three events at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
Yet, to damn her as overrated is uncharitable, to say the least.
To be sure, she has been to two Olympic Games, losing the opening round 2-6 to Britain’s Amy Oliver in London and the third round 0-6 to Tan Tin-Yang (Chinese Taipei) in Rio. And the bronze medal match that she lost to North Korea’s Kwon Un-Sil in Guangzhou was the closest she has got to laying her hands on in the individual events in three Asian Games attempts.
In 2014, she lost 0-6 to Indonesia’s Diananda Choirunisa in the second round. The attention on her “failures” has only increased in Jakarta since she was in three events – individual, team and the mixed team event, making its debut in the Asian Games – and did not get to within hailing distance of a medal.
The standard – and easiest – response that one gets when setting out to find out what could possibly come between Deepika and a medal in the multi-discipline Games is that she lacks the mental strength to win at this level. It is an unfair conclusion to draw without speaking to her or finding out what her preparation has been like.
Surely, she would not have been mentally weak when rising to world No 1 in 2012 or when winning three World Cup gold medals in 2012, 2013 and in Salt Lake City earlier this year as well as when winning three silver medals in World Cups in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
So, what is it that has stopped her from doing well in multi-discipline Games of the highest level? And, what is it that causes her early defeats in the elimination rounds of the big-ticket events?
It is tough for her to escape the increased talk of medals at such Games, even more to shut such conversations from adding to the building pressure that she may begin to feel. One of the ways in which she can avoid these stumbles is to play in multi-discipline Games like she would be playing a World Cup.
Thanks to Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), she has had a mind trainer over the past few months but if she is to make a run for the big medal to end debates and swing conversations in a different direction, she will need to rework the entire training and competition plan to include coaching and mind training. If a Heena Sidhu can stimulate final conditions in training, Deepika can easily replicate it.
Deepika’s wait for that elusive medal stretches. She last wore an Asian Games medal, a bronze, in Guangzhou eight years ago. The milestones that she has collected along the way do not seem to matter to many whose desperation to see her win at level. Only then would they want to confirm her place in their minds as one of India’s most successful athletes.
There are some questions to which she has no obvious answers. She has been hearing it for some years now. And she has been seeking the answers which will automatically bring an end to such questions being asked. Obviously, she is aware of the gap that needs to be bridged. She would like us to believe she is working on it.
“There is a vast of work that has to go into bridging that gap that you talk about, the gap between what I am capable of and what I have delivered,” she says in an informal chat at the end of her Asian Games campaign.
“And I am putting in that effort, training hard and doing everything possible to raise my game, especially in the elimination rounds.”
Her accuracy rank fifth this year – a rise from the 14th she was back in 2014 – is a result of 147 10s that she has shot in four World Cup competitions. Surely, her stock is not low as some would imagine, irrespective of who else shot in those competitions. It is just a matter of not being off the 9s and 10s on that odd occasion which is letting her down.
For instance, the 1 that she shot during ranking rounds brought her down to an unfamiliar 17th place and brought her to compete with Chinese Taipei’s Lei Chien Ying in the pre-quarterfinals itself. And in that match, she had a forgettable 6 with one of her arrows barely moments after tying the second set.
In a sport that demands the highest degree of precision and punishes the slightest of errors, there is not much time to mull on mistakes.
“There is no way I can get an arrow back, once it has been released. I do not to think much about whether it has hit bull’s eye or a low score. I begin the process of focusing on the next arrow by keeping the mind in the present,” she says.
The 24-year-old is determined that she will deliver something special. Soon. An athlete’s awareness of the problem goes a great distance in finding a solution. It is in covering the rest of the distance that she may need support from the best of coaching staff. That gap that she speaks of is something that can be covered, so long as that task is approached in the right manner.
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Updated Date: Aug 25, 2018 22:11:35 IST