Women On Top
Meet Archer Deepika Kumari, The Small Town Girl Who’s Going To The 2020 Olympics!
Former #1 archer and current World No. 5, Deepika Kumari is the living, breathing embodiment of how the conviction of spirit and strength can take you from humble beginnings to representing India in the 2020 Olympics!
Sitting across her, I was bowled over by just how she carefully balances ambition with positivity. Read on to find out how this young #GirlBoss is redefining feminism without knowing it, handling fame, and living her best life.
Don’t forget to watch Ladies First, the Netflix special that follows the trials, tribulations, and celebrations of Deepika Kumari’s life.
Did you always want to be an athlete as a child?
Not really. Growing up, I actually didn’t know anything about archery, and was introduced to the sport in the 7th standard. My parents were deciding to change my school around the time I was first introduced to archery. During a summer vacation visit to my grandma’s house, I met a girl who showed me the basics. At that time, I decided to join the Tata Institute, which offered free courses, and pursue the sport because I thought it would help me ease the burden on my family.
Who would you say was your biggest support through this journey?
Both my parents were equal pillars of support, because if they hadn’t allowed me to pursue archery, my dream would have remained unfulfilled, and it would have just been another “What if?” I honestly didn’t expect it, since they were very strict with me while I was growing up, and I’d have to sneak out to play Kabaddi, Hide n Seek, etc.
What would be your message for young girls?
Every girl has a dream but some come under pressure to get married, and they leave their dreams unfulfilled. I urge them to first chase their dreams, go out and conquer – because someday you’ll look back and wonder why you hadn’t done it then. Don’t allow that regret to ever seep into your life. Just dream it, be fearless, and do it! Don’t leave anything for tomorrow!
What does a day in your life look like?
I train for 8.5 hours a day. It’s a mix of gym, yoga, exercise and shooting. Apart from physical training, there’s a lot of mental conditioning, meditation and yoga that helps centre us as athletes. Sure, there are some things that we aren’t able to do too, as in India we don’t have the facilities for them. That’s the biggest hurdle for us athletes, the fact that sometimes we can’t go ahead with plans due to infrastructure.
How did you manage to overcome societal pressure?
My mother, who is a working woman has always been my biggest support. There’s always been a background of pressure from society, but she’s supported me in my decision to forge ahead. I’ve always said that there’s still a lot of time for me, and that I’ll only consider marriage after the 2020 Olympics, so do not to mention it before.
How do you deal with the fame that comes with being such a successful athlete?
With recognition comes expectation and pressure, because you need to maintain the rank and reputation. People think that you’re putting in the hard work when you’re winning, and that you’re slacking when you’re losing matches, which is really not the case. There are various factors that affect the outcome: circumstance, or even luck. A human being can never always win and there comes a time in every athlete’s life where you have to deal with loss – but the key is to forge ahead, live in the present, be mindful and work harder.
What’s your mantra?
I don’t believe in chasing fame, although I do want my hard work to bear fruit and take my sport ahead. You just have to keep your head down, and keep working hard. Eventually, fame will find you. I honestly believe in being chilled out, staying positive, being by myself, staying focused, and being undisturbed by those around me. This introspection sets the foundation for my ambition, and allows me to focus on winning and taking my sport to the next level.