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Deepika Kumari's wait for an Olympic medal continues since 2012

Yes, Deepika Kumari had tough luck being drawn against An San, but should the World Number 1 not deliver regardless of the situation?

Deepika Kumaris wait for an Olympic medal continues since 2012

Deepika Kumari


Abhijit Nair

Updated: 30 July 2021 12:46 PM GMT

3 Olympics, 6 events, 0 medals – This is how the current World Number 1 archer Deepika Kumari's record at the pinnacle of sports look like.

It is definitely not impressive. It is just absurd how an archer of Deepika calibre has time and again failed to step up at the grandest of stage and deliver what is expected of her.

Arguments like, 'She will win it next time' or 'She tried her best' just sounds silly at this point. Yes, Deepika is just 27-year-old and has a long career ahead, but she is amongst the best in the world right now. And so, does it not make more sense to expect her to deliver right now than probably three years later from now?

Deepika started off her campaign at the Tokyo Olympics decently. She finished ninth in the women's ranking round and then lost to the South Koreans in the Mixed Team event in the quarterfinals, pairing up with the inexperienced Pravin Jadhav.

Deepika Kumari paired up with Pravin Jadhav for Mixed Team event (World Archery)

Going into the women's individual section, there were a lot of expectations from her. Though people knew she would face some very tough opposition from the South Korean archers, it was overshadowed by Deepika being the World Number 1.

But little did they know that world rankings are deceptive, especially in precision sports like archery and shooting.

The people were further blown away by Deepika Kumari's stature when she blazed past the Bhutanese Karma 6-0 in the round of 64. People appreciated the final scoreline but failed to look beneath it.

Karma is ranked 193rd in the world, so a win was expected. Deepika did deliver a win in just nine shots, but she had hit the 10 pointer just once in those nine shots. The rest included three 8s and five 9s. This win was not about Deepika blowing away her opponent; it was rather about Karma shooting well below-par the standards the Indian is used to.

Up next was Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez in the round of 32. The American is even lower ranked than Karma but stretched Deepika to her limits. Yet again, people were pleased to see a 6-4 scoreline but failed to understand it was just Fernandez's inability to handle the pressure which swung the match in favour of India's ace archer.

There were three 10s for Deepika in fifteen shots, but it included a seven and a six. And while some pointed it out on social media, it did not really matter as people got over it, terming the conditions windy – which it certainly was.

The round of 16 witnessed a much better show from Deepika. She was forced to bring out her 'A' game by Russian Olympic Committee's (ROC) world number 8, Ksenia Perova. This was by far the biggest test for the Indian, and she held her nerves to come out on top.

Though there was a 7 pointer in the second set, Deepika was consistent for most parts of the match, and when it mattered the most, she delivered a perfect ten pointer in the shoot-off to scrape through to the quarterfinal.

The quarterfinal was expected to be a tough one for Deepika. She was up against the South Korean, An San, who had already clinched two gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics. Besides, San was also the top seed in the women's section after topping the ranking round.

An San (World Archery)

Facing one of the best in the world is never easy – does not matter who you are. And if that opponent is in the form An San has been in, then winning is just out of the question.

But, there were expectations from Deepika. Both the other South Korean women archers were already out of contention, so it was not as if An San was invincible. Besides, Deepika's husband and star archer, Atanu Das, had himself defeated South Korea's Oh Jinhyek to make his way into the round of 16 in the men's section. So, certainly, there was hope.

Hope does not always translate into results, and that's exactly what happened when Deepika Kumari met An San in the quarterfinal. The Indian seemed to be overwhelmed by her opponent, who took the first set with three perfect 10s.

An San was inconsistent in the second set, but Deepika was even worse, shooting two 7s. The South Korean took a 4-0 lead.

What fans back in India had feared was just transpiring at the Yumenoshima Final Field. Deepika was crumbling, but fans expected her to fight back like she always does.

Only that the fightback never came. Instead, Deepika Kumari looked as if she had already lost it. The confidence she oozed in the previous two sets was suddenly gone, the cheerfulness on her face lost. It was as if she just wants to get it done with.

And just like that, the World Number 1 shot a 7, 8 and a 9 in the third set to crash out of the Olympics without a medal for the third time in her career.

This was by far Deepika's best show at the Olympics, and she was nowhere near her best. While the Deepika of 2016 was not really in great shape going into the Olympics, the Deepika of 2012 and 2021 certainly was.

It was kind of a déjà vu for the Indian fans, who expected to see Deepika on the podium in Tokyo. Much like 2012, Deepika was the World Number 1 going into Tokyo and then faltered when it mattered.

The Deepika of 2012 was young and inexperienced, but the Deepika in Tokyo was veteran and experienced. She had to deliver it this time around. No excuses.

Yes, Deepika Kumari had tough luck being drawn against An San, but should the World Number 1 not deliver regardless of the situation?

Deepika Kumari, undoubtedly, is one of the best archers the world has seen. But, the question remains, 'When will she deliver at the biggest of all stages?' and no 'Next Time' should not be the answer.

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