Kumari: This is the final and it’s different every time

Deepika Kumari will shoot at her sixth Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in Rome. She qualified after a strong and consistent season that saw her achieve the second-highest average matchplay arrow of any of the eight recurve women qualified for the Final, although not climb the individual podium at any stage.

She lost three individual matches in 2017, two in quarterfinals and one in the fourth round, but they were all high-level, high-scoring affairs. 

“Actually, I was expecting it to be a little better. There’s been many thing I’ve been trying to do differently this season, for myself. I decided to work on confidence,” said Kumari, who noticeably physically transformed in the offseason after 2016.

“I've been focusing on my fitness training, because I need more strength and muscle, so it means I can do more shooting without tightness or stiffness.”

The Indian media is notorious for setting insanely-high standards for its athletes, and over the course of her career Kumari has become wary of talking to the press who expected her to bring nothing less than gold back from Rio and London.

“I'm not a fan. Not at all. Because they ask me stupid questions, and they’re always irritating me and behaving badly,” she said.

In 2016, Kumari received the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India, for her contributions to Indian sport. Is she recognised more now?

“Yes.” In the street? “Yes, sometimes,” she smiled. “I'm a role model for the juniors I suppose.”

Kumari has already taken four silver medals in her five appearances at Hyundai Archery World Cup Finals – and, at her sixth in Rome, will look to get over the hump that the brings her the adulation that she has probably deserved for remaining one of the world’s best archers since winning the Commonwealth Games at the age of 16.

“I’ll just try to do better. This is the final, and it’s totally different every time. I’ll just try to do my best,” she said.

“How long will I continue with archery? I don't know… 10 years, 15 years? We will see. I’m still not thinking too much about the future. I’m just focused on my archery.”

With her medal cabinet already heavy, it’s easy to forget that Deepika Kumari is still only 23 years of age. She’s got plenty more years in her prime and that champion title at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final is probably more of a matter of when, not if.

Could it be on 3 September in Rome?

The 2017 Hyundai Archery World Cup Final takes place on 2/3 September in Rome, Italy.