Deepika Kumari (born 13 June 1994) is an Indian athlete who competes in the event of Archery, is currently ranked World No. 5, and is a former world number one. She won a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth games in the women’s individual recurve event. She also won a gold medal in the same competition in the women’s team recurve event along with Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi.
Kumari qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where she competed in the Women’s Individual and Women’s team events, finishing in eighth place in the latter.
She was conferred the Arjuna Award, India’s second highest sporting award in the year 2012 by President of India Pranab Mukherjee. In February 2014, she was honored with FICCI Sportsperson of the Year Award. The Government of India awarded her the civilian honour of the Padma Shri in 2016. She is currently supported by Olympic Gold Quest, a not-for-profit foundation that identifies and supports Indian athletes.
Deepika Kumari was born to Shivnarayan Mahato, an auto-rickshaw driver and Geeta Mahato, a nurse at Ranchi Medical College. Her parents live at Ratu Chati village, 15 km away from Ranchi. As a child, she practised archery while aiming for mangoes with stones. In the early days it was rather difficult for the parents to financially support Deepika’s dream, often compromising on the family budget to buy her new equipment for her training; as a result, Deepika practised archery using homemade bamboo bows and arrows. Deepika’s cousin Vidya Kumari, then an archer residing at Tata Archery Academy, helped her develop her talent.
Deepika made her first breakthrough in 2005 when she entered Arjun Archery Academy, an institute set up by Meera Munda, wife of chief minister of the state Shri. Arjun Munda at Kharsawan. But her professional archery journey began in the year 2006 when she joined the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur. It was here that she started her training with both the proper equipment as well as a uniform. She also received Rs 500 as a stipend. Deepika returned home once in her first three years there, only after having won the Cadet World Championship title in November 2009.
Deepika became the second Indian to win the title after Palton Hansda won the junior compound competition at the 2006 Archery World Cup in Mérida, Mexico.
She won the 11th Youth World Archery Championship held in Ogden, USA in 2009, at the age of fifteen. She also won a gold medal in the same competition in the women’s team recurve event, alongside Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi.
At the Delhi Commonwealth games 2010, Deepika won two gold medals, one in the individual event and the other in the women’s team recurve event. For this, she was honoured with the Outstanding Performance at CWG (Female) Award at the 2010 Sahara Sports Awards ceremony.
Later at the Asian Games of 2010, held in Guangzhou, China, Deepika missed out on a medal after she lost to Kwon Un Sil of North Korea in the bronze-medal play-off of the women’s individual archery event. But as a part of the Indian archery recurve team, along with Rimil Buriuly and Dola Banerjee, Deepika edged out Chinese Taipei 218–217 in the bronze play-off to ensure a podium finish at the Aoti Archery Range.
In May 2012, Deepika Kumari won her first World Cup individual stage recurve gold medal at Antalya, Turkey. She beat Korea’s Lee Sung-Jin by six set points to four in the final. Later in 2012, she would go on to become world no. 1 in Women’s Recurve Archery. In London Olympics 2012, Deepika Kumari lost against Amy Oliver of Great Britain in the opening round, attributing a relatively poor performance to fever and high winds.
On 22 July 2013, she won the Gold Medal in Archery World Cup stage 3 held at Medellin, Colombia where India finished fourth. On 22 September 2013, Deepika lost 4-6 to Yun Ok-Hee of South Korea & settled for Silver Medal in 2013 FITA Archery World Cup. This was her 3rd Silver medal in as many appearances in the World Cup Final.
In 2014, Deepika was featured by Forbes (India) as one of their ’30 under 30′. However, she failed to make the Indian team for 2014 after finishing outside the top 4 at the national qualifications.
In 2015, Deepika’s first medal came at the second stage of the World Cup, where she won a bronze in the individual event. At the World Championships in Copenhagen, she won a team silver along with Laxmirani Majhi and Rimil Buriuly, after narrowly losing out on a gold in a match against Russia which they conceded 4–5 in a shoot-off. In the latter half of this year, she won the silver medal in the World Cup final. In November 2015, she won a bronze medal in the Asian Championships with Jayanta Talukdar in the Recurve Mixed Team event.
In April 2016, at the first stage of the World Cup in Shanghai, Deepika equaled the Ki Bo-bae’s world record of (686/720) in the women’s recurve event.