Deepika Kumari’s eighth a career-best at the Olympic Games

Deepka Kumari shoots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

India has never won an archery medal at the Olympics.

And though, for a third-straight Games, Deepika Kumari leaves empty-handed, the signs of progress are evident.

The world number one arriving in Tokyo, Kumari lost to eventual Olympic Champion An San in the quarterfinals of the women’s individual event on Friday, falling short of her goal of becoming the first Indian archer to win a medal at the Games

“I’m very much [upset] because the last two, three tournaments I did well,” said Kumari, who won two stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup leading up to the Games. “Unfortunately, I cannot live up to my own expectations.”

Without a team at the Olympics for the first time in her career, Deepika’s performance was not without its triumphs.

She won her third match of the tournament in a thrilling shoot-off over Ksenia Perova, delivering a perfect 10 to topple the former world champion and become the first Indian archer to ever make the last eight in an individual event at the Games.

Having finished 33rd in London and ninth in Rio, it’s a new benchmark for the nation.

An San was undoubtedly the best woman on the Olympic field – but Kumari didn’t look quite right in her straight-set quarterfinal loss. She certainly didn’t look like the dominant archer who won three gold medals at the last international before these Games in Paris.

“I’m not sure what happened, but from the very first moment, I couldn’t perform to my own expectations,” Kumari said. “I think that was one of the reasons for my defeat.”

The experienced international’s competition was over in a match that lasted less than six minutes.

“Deepika, You may lose this Olympics but you will be always in so many peoples heart… Move on to the next @dkumari.archer,” her husband, Atanu Das, wrote after the match on Instagram. He ended up ninth in the men’s event in Tokyo.

Archery at the Olympics is a notoriously difficult event to win.

All 64 athletes that qualify are talented enough to crest the podium and a few bad arrows, or a few rough minutes on the range, can mean elimination. Tokyo wasn’t Deepika’s turn for gold – she still has time at 27 years of age – but it was a step in the right direction.