Deepika Kumari won three gold medals at the Archery World Cup in Paris on Sunday, a quite remarkable and unprecedented sweep for India at the event. Here's all you need to know about why she -- and what she did -- is rather special.
Who is Deepika Kumari?
Deepika Kumari is India's best recurve archer, and a former world no. 1.
Currently ranked no. 3, Deepika has nine golds, 12 silvers, and seven bronzes across World Cups. She is a two-time Commonwealth Gold medalist (individual and women's team, 2010) and a double World Championships silver medalist (2011, 2015, Copenhagen). She's also a two-time Olympian (2012, 2016) and has qualified for the 2021 Olympics in the individual (only Indian in the women's event) and mixed team events.
Why was the hat-trick so special?
Deepika rocked up to the World Cup stage 3 in Paris, and shot her way to those three golds in around about five hours. She won all three of the three possible golds she could have won, a clean sweep of the recurve section.
She initially teamed up with Ankita Bhakat and Komalika Bari to defeat Mexico in comfortable fashion - this despite the team missing out on Olympic qualification last week. The trio did not even drop a set to win their second world title in as many months.
Then, she and doubles partner Atanu Das (also her husband) defeated Netherland's Sjef van den Berg and Gabriela Schloesser in the mixed team final. It was far from a straightforward win, as the duo bounced back from going 0-2 down to win 5-3.
She then returned to win her fourth individual recurve medal (after Guatemala City 2021, Salt Lake City 2018 and Antalya 2012). Deepika destroyed 17th ranked Russian Elena Osipova 6-0 to complete her hat-trick.
What did she have to say about it?
"This is the first time I've won all three medals in a World Cup I'm happy, but at the same time I have to continue my performance like this. I want to improve that, because the upcoming tournament is very, very important to us. I'm trying my best to continue learning whatever I can," she told worldarchery.com
The very, very important competition she is referring to? The Tokyo Olympics, which start on July 23.
"It's very important. Our country, in archery, it doesn't have any Olympic medals. It's very important to win Olympic medals, so it's very important to me."
What are her prospects in Tokyo?
As her world ranking (3) suggests, Deepika is an elite archer. Add to that her current form and the confidence that comes with sweeping a women's recurve section at a World Cup stage (even if Asian heavyweights South Korea, China and Chinese Taipei skipped the event), and it'd be foolhardy to count her out of medal contention.
She's even more heavily favoured to feature in the medal places in the mixed team event, where she and Atanu appear to be hitting peak form just at the right time.
The Deepika and Atanu relationship
The two were engaged for two years before getting married in 2020 after the news of the deferral of the Olympics.
Atanu spoke to ESPN about their special relationship last year, just before their wedding -- "We've known each other for so long so there's a strong bond of friendship and whole lot of comfort between us. We only started seeing each other around [four] years ago but we didn't want the other archers and our teammates to know about it really so we kept it private. We only made it public around the time we got engaged in December (2018)."
"I've learnt so much from Deepika," says Atanu, "Her attitude of karna hai to karna hai (if you have to do it, you have to do it) is something I admire. Also the effort she puts into her physical fitness. It hasn't slackened in all the years I've known her."
Oh, and they spent most of the lockdown in 2020 training and making these utterly delightful videos --
We fight corona, stayed at home but active with our passion. Stay fit during the lockdown as well.#worldarchery #indianarcheryteam #stayathome #stayfit #kiranrijiju #JaiHind pic.twitter.com/JrAHr4JrcN
- TheAtanuDas (@ArcherAtanu) March 26, 2020