Deepika Kumari was part of the first Indian women’s team to fight for an Olympic Gold Medal in archery at the Rio games in 2016. While she did not come home with the gold, she is currently ranked as the best archer in the world. Her journey began in rural India and within four years of leaving her village, she achieved incredible feats.
This amazing woman was born to Shivnarayan Mahato, a rickshaw driver, and Geeta Mahato, a nurse at Ranchi Medical College. Her family lives in a small village outside of Ranchi, India. In her early days, she would practice archery by aiming at mangoes using stones. Her parents supported her talent but often felt the pressure of buying new equipment for her to train with versus compromising on the family budget. She practiced on a bow and arrows made from bamboo.
In 2005, Deepika finally had a chance to train with a proper equipment and uniform at the Arjun Archery Academy. After winning several regional and international awards, in 2012, she received the Arjun Award, India’s second highest sport’s award, and in 2016 she received the Padma Shri Award, which is the highest award for this category in India.
She has inspired millions of women across South Asia to strive for equal opportunity and support in sports. Deepika was met with criticism and pushback when she wanted to pursue her dreams. Combating the stereotypes and sexist views that many South Asian women face, she has proven that women can stand toe to toe in any category perceived to be a “man’s game”. A biographic documentary called Ladies First, released in 2017 was made by Uraaz Bahl and his wife Shaana Levy-Bahl and is now streaming on Netflix. The movie won at the London Independent Film Festival and was screened at the Mallorca Film Festival in October 2017.
Happy International Women’s Day!