Deepika Kumari went to the 2012 Olympics on the back of a World No 1 ranking and a roaring buzz, but the youngster would implode in one of the most dramatic fashions watching her hopes go down in tears that merged with London’s wind and rain. With a year to go for the Rio Games, the young archer strode confidently to take position at Copenhagen’s World Championships and alongside Laxmi Rani Majhi and Rimil Buriuly shot confidently to win qualification for the 2016 Games, and restart the buzz again.
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Germany was pipped 53-52 for the quota, Colombia was shrugged aside and a 30 in the shootout against Japan was secured as India lined up against Russia for the recurve team finals on Sunday.
It’s good news in the lead-up to the Games again. Except, this time, Deepika will expect fewer trembles and nerves as she unlearns the bad memory of distinctly windy conditions throwing her off her game.
There was a jarring 5 pointer in the third set against Japan causing a few rumbles, but the 21-year-old looks better prepared to deal with gusting winds this time around, having taken a monstrous jump in her bow’s poundage.
Having improved on her fitness and strength drastically in the last few months, Deepika Kumari has now increased the draw weight of the bow to 42 – close to what the top Indian men archers use. In the last four years, the poundage has gone up from 38 to 42, and is just a tad shy of the men’s draw weights of 44.
Internationally, most women archers average 40, and there’s only the top big athletes — extremely fit and strong — who can master control over a 42. “It helps in better arrow speed and is hence more accurate in the wind,” senior archer Dola Banerjee explained, adding that Deepika is showing fine control over the high poundage. Not a mean task, given that it requires supreme upper body fitness and shoulders taking the maximum strain. “It brings stability and control to her shooting, but it’s harder to pull and she’s put in a lot of body strengthening work to be able to manage that bow,” she added.
What happens with higher bow poundage is that the whizzing arrow speed neutralizes the wavering winds, negating its ability to disturb accuracy. It requires sophisticated handling, and with Deepika’s draw length of 28 inches, the 42 was going to be inevitable.
“Deepika did a lot of gym work in the off-season at Bangalore,” said her trainer Nikhil Latey, of the changed training routines that switching to 42 demanded.
“Right now she’s stronger than some of the boys and beats them all at fitness,” Dola Banerjee said, adding that with experience and a precise bow, she could improve her scores even more.