Motherhood the missing ingredient in Kumari’s campaign for a big win?

Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das.

Deepika Kumari is now a mother – and it’s changed her.

“My body is not the same as before, my mind is not the same,” she says.

Having missed out on the top team last season, India’s most decorated archer is into the last 16 of the trials process for this year’s Hyundai World Archery Championships and Asian Games.

In 2023, the country will only name one top team – and send it to the whole calendar of international tournaments. Previously, an A and a B squad were nominated and the two rotated. No longer – meaning there’s one shot at a spot in the squad, and it’s soon.

The Indian team for this season will be picked later this week in Haryana.

“I am having difficulties in my shooting,” says Deepika, who’s rushing to return to form. She did, after all, only pick up a bow again one month ago – and three weeks after giving birth to a baby girl.

“We’ll see what will happen. Only one thing I know – I’m strong and I’ll do it.”

Deepika trained until seven months into her pregnancy before taking a break to look after her rapidly growing baby. She gave birth in early December – and was back on the range before the new year.

Now it’s a question of rebuilding strength… while building her new family.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” says Kumari – who’s already thinking about how she’ll balance motherhood with a competition travel schedule. “I don’t know how I can manage but I will. My in-laws are so supportive.”

It’s not just Deepika who’ll shoot in the trials in Haryana on 17-20 February, but her partner and fellow Olympian Atanu Das, too.

“I am so lucky he’s in my life. I’m very lucky to have him as a husband and a friend,” says Deepika.

The pair missed out on a fairytale mixed team result at the Olympics in Tokyo when Jadhav Pravin qualified higher and took Das’ place, that pair eventually finishing sixth.

With this new chapter written off the shooting line, perhaps Kumari’s fantasy finish – the seemingly inevitable one that’ll cement her status as a legend of Indian archery – has edged one step nearer.