When Jharkhand lost on a podium in compound archery at the 40th NTPC National Archery Championships, his members did not pack their bags to return home.
Instead, two of the three were seen training on a spare target in a secluded corner of the field. “We will try to win next time,” said one of the archers as the other continued to shoot.
Babita Kumari and Anita Kumari had slipped out of the public eye into an empty space – to improve, persevere and aim for a medal next time around.
“Thoda aur practices the karte toh ho jaata (With a little more practice we could have won a medal), ”Babita said with a smile.
Babita, one of the youngest archers in the championship, comes from a village called Barenda which made headlines because of rumors of witchcraft. Her father is a farmer.
Before turning 18, she had won four gold and as many silver medals in the SGFI Under-14 Archery Championship between 2015 and 2017.
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Babita started archery after seeing Madhumita Kumari, who won the silver medal for India at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. On Saturday, Madhumita shot next to her.
“I felt very happy,” said a jubilant Babita, “It’s only when I compete against seniors that I will understand how much I have improved.”
Anita is another young prodigy from a remote village called Tunku in Jharkhand. His career has been a bit of a roller coaster. She won a gold medal at the 2019 Khelo India Youth Games, but was withdrawn from the Indian squad after a doping violation in April this year.
“I want to forget the past and aim for a gold medal at the Asian Games,” she said.
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Their 45-year-old teammate Jhano Hansdah is older than the combined age (18 and 22) of the duo.
The trio, who beat seasoned championship athletes to advance to the semi-finals, competed together for the first time on Tuesday.
Inspector at Indian Railways, Jhano has been in the archery circuit for 25 years now.
“I have been practicing compound archery for 15 years and recurve archery for 10 years. If we had met earlier we might have added a few more points to the board, ”she said.
The team competed individually on Sunday but failed to advance to the quarter-finals. Together, they scored 223 points, three behind a guaranteed podium.