Deepika Kumari: From stealing tamarind to pocketing innumerable medals at World stage
Ace Indian archer Deepika Kumari did not have an easy childhood, which she believes helped her develop a strong character. She was a notorious kid, full of energy, and often gave her parents a hard time.
"My father says that I was born in a mini-truck as they couldn't reach the hospital on time," Kumari had said in a video interview for Olympics.com.
Her father Shivnarayan Mahato worked as an auto-rickshaw driver in Ranchi and mother Geeta was a nurse. It was a difficult time for her family during her childhood as they could hardly make both ends meet.
It was, however, the mischieves of their daughter that they have treasured in their minds.
"She was a 'little thief'. As a child, she would pluck tamarind and mangoes from the trees," her father Shivnarayan Mahto said.
"While going to school, in her childhood, she would often end up going here and there. We would have to find her and get her back home," her mother Geeta Mahto said.
But gradually life began to change for Kumari after she picked up the bow and arrow for the first time at the age of 14. At first she was rejected from the academy in Kharsawan (a district in Jharkhand) but the young archer asked for three months to prove her potential and did so to cross the first hurdle in her archery career.
"First time, when I went to Kharsawan, I was excited, because everything was going to be new. But then after sometime when problems started arising I became disappointed," Kumari recalled.
The time she spent at her first academy helped her find freedom and took her closer to her dreams but it came with its own difficulties as the academy lacked basic facilities.
"There was no bathroom, we had to take bath in a nearby river and at night there were wild elephants approaching our surroundings. We were asked not to go to the washroom at night," the archer said.
"But then slowly as I started to develop more interest in archery, those problems were ignored, and the focus was shifted to the sport. I got my bow early and started to shoot," she added.
"Maybe this is god-gifted that players from Jharkhand love sports a lot."
In a matter of four years, Kumari was an established name in the world archery stage, as she clinched the World No.1 rank for the first time at the age of 18.
Since then there has been no looking back for Kumari who has accumulated over 35 medals -- team and individual events -- from the World Cups, World Championships, Asian Archery Championships, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games but will vie for her first at Tokyo 2020.
When does Deepika Kumari's Tokyo 2020 campaign start?
Kumari will be first in action at Tokyo 2020 on July 23, Friday, in the women's individual qualification rounds.