In five minutes, Deepika Kumari’s Olympics dreams crashed. Mostly erratic, she could not muster her clinical self, as her adversary An San sauntered past her to the semifinal. The South Korean, World No 1, had an occasional stutter or two, but Deepika could not make it count and surrendered 6-0, losing all three sets without much fight. She hit four 7s during the match and against a world-class archer that was too much to give away.
To beat San was always going to be an arduous task, and often in these big games, it’s about getting to steady starts. Deepika did not, she stuttered straightaway, even as San hit the perfect 10 with the first three strikes, winning it 30-27. India had erred, with a 7 on her first strike. Though she fought back with a brace of perfect 10s, San was unrelenting and accurate, her bows hitting the sweet spot as though they were laser-guided missiles.
Deepika grimaced, she knew it was difficult for her to wrestle back from the early setback. She could not afford any further slip-up while the serene San, who had already two medals in her bag in this Olympics, in women’s team and mixed team archery, had to really have a bad round. She did not look like in that mood either, not after setting an Olympic record in the qualifiers and in the best form of her life. But she was slightly off the target with her first shot, a nine. Deepika responded with 10, giving the Indian a rare sniff of an upset. But Deepika wilted, her next two attempts were both 7s, which gave the match on a platter to San. She atoned herself with a 10 in her second and seven sufficed to clinch her the set and give her four match points.
From thereon, Deepika required nothing less than a true miracle to retrieve her day. Her eyes betrayed the disappointment. But in the past, there have been instances of archers saving four match points. In the eliminator a few hours ago, she had staved off a stern challenge from ROC’s Ksenia Perova, winning the game 6-5. However, Deepika’s error-strewn ways continued, as he could manage just a seven in her first attempt. Followed 8 and 9, taking her total to 24. But the South Korean, even though she was not at her accurate best, managed 26 to wrap up the game and enter the semifinals.
For Deepika, it was yet another heartbreak story in Olympics.