Deepika welcomes return to competition ahead of third Olympics

Deepika Kumari shoots during the first stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Guatemala City.

It was announced last month that Deepika Kumari would be heading to her third straight Olympic Games later this summer.

The former world number one finished top of India’s selection trials yet again, and she will also lead the recurve women’s squad that tries to augment its quota for the Games from one to three at the final qualifier for Tokyo 2020, which is being held in two month's time in Paris.

“The upcoming Olympics will be different for me. I’m learning how to control my thoughts. At the same time, I’m performing better,” Kumari said.

“Archery is all about your mind and thoughts. We have to know how to handle pressure. How to control the brain. My mind control, my thought control. That’s the key in archery and sports.”

Kumari has already had an exemplary international career. She’s podiumed five times in seven appearances at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final and collected countless other international medals.

She’s been under immense public pressure for even greater achievements since breaking out with Commonwealth Games gold at the age of 15.

“I didn’t know anything at that time. I was so young. I was just enjoying the games. If I win, if I lose, it didn’t matter for me,” Deepika said. “I wish [I could go back to that], but in a different way. With my [current] experience, with my control.”

At just 26 years of age, Kumari has plenty of international archery left – and plenty of room to continue learning, as she repeatedly emphasised. That self-improvement kicks into gear with a return to the Hyundai Archery World Cup field this week in Guatemala City.

“You continue practising, practising, practising. But competitions give you pressure. You need to know how to handle pressure,” she said.

All the work is in pursuit of a goal that permeates deeply in a country of well over a billion people. What Deepika desires – an Olympic title, even an Olympic podium – is very tangible. She could do it. That’s why there are so many expectations placed on her shoulders.

Her all-important competition preparation in the lead-up to Tokyo will be absent one normal ingredient.

Korea, archery’s leading nation and the country that is traditionally dominant in the women’s events at the Olympics, recently confirmed that it would not shoot on the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit in 2021.

“If they participated, there would be a little more competition, but it doesn’t matter for me. It’s their decision, if they want to play or don’t want to play,” said Deepika.

“I want to play.”