5 years…it is the age when a girl generally pesters her parents for dolls; she wants to have fun with toys; loves to dance and sing; sometimes annoys her parents too, yet gets lots of hugs and kisses in return. Shivani Cherukuri is also a girl of 5. But she is different. It is not dolls and toys but she plays with bow and arrows. Shivani is an archer, more precisely, a child prodigy whose name is already in the record books.
Born in a family of archers in Vijaywada, Shivani Cherukuri was bound to be an archer. “My son and daughter came back to me in the form of Shivani,” said Satyanarayan Cherukuri lamenting the untimely death of his elder daughter Volga and only son Lenin. When Volga succumbed to death following a road mishap in 2004, Satyanarayan and his wife, Krishna Kumari were shocked. But they overcame the grief by the presence of their promising son Lenin.
Lenin Cherukuri was a young archer, already a national champion and was preparing for the Asian Championships. It was Lenin who advised his parents to start an archery academy in the name of his sister where they can train poor but talented youngsters. Thus, Volga Archery Academy was formed where Satyanarayan and Lenin both started to coach.
Lenin, shot to fame as he became Asian Champion in 2005 followed by medals in international tournaments like Asian Grand Prix and others. By that time, he was also a reputed coach in his academy who was instrumental in producing national and international archers from Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh.
In 2010, it was a proud moment for Lenin when two of his wards, Ritul Chatterjee and Jignesh Chittibomma won silver medal in Delhi Commonwealth Games. They were all in Hyderabad to attend a state felicitation ceremony after which Lenin, Ritul and Satyanarayan were returning to Vijaywada by car. But the night was fateful as Lenin, driving the Scorpio, lost control while trying to avoid an autorickshaw and hit the road divider. He was thrown out of the vehicle and died immediately.
The world came to a standstill for the Vijaywada couple. Satyanarayan was utterly grieved, so was his wife, and they could not come out of the shock. But then came the honour bestowed on their late son by the 49th FITA World Conference at Turin in Italy. The couple was so moved that they thought that it was their duty to carry on their family legacy. So they went for surrogacy and Shivani came to them on 2nd April, 2012.
“At her 6 months, we went to Indrakeeladri in the temple of Goddess Kanakadurga for her ‘Annaprasana’ (rice-ceremony). It is written in Mahabharata that Arjuna received the ‘Pashupatastra’ (deadly weapon) from Lord Shiva at that place. When we were performing the puja we offered many things to the Goddess among which there was bow and arrow. Shivani, left all other things and lifted only the bow and arrow. Seeing this, we were sure…..yes we were gifted an archer,”
Satyanaran proudly says.
Shivani Cherukuri’s exploits started when she was only 35 months old. Just some days prior to her 3rd birthday, she entered the India Book of Records by hitting 388 points in the recurve segment in two distances – first at 7 metres and then at 5 metres. It was 24th March 2015 when at first Shivani scored 199 points in 7 metre distance where the size of the target face was 122 cm. Next, she scored 189 points in 5 metre distance where the target face was 88 cm. The representative from India Book of Records recognized her feat and presented a trophy, medal and a certificate to Shivani.
This unbelievable feat made the little girl quite famous. Media covered the event, felicitation happened, promises of financial assistance came but as days passed the event went into oblivion. But what continued was the little girl’s determined practice. Shivani, at that early age, showed a high maturity level. Satyanarayan says, “In spite of being only 5, she understands everything. Shivani knows that she has to practice more. She follows the daily routine as has been set by us. We never have to push her to the practice ground, we never have to pressurize her.”
This maturity level has also helped her to get admission in Dr. K K R’s Goutham International School. The authority recognized her talent and put her in their free education scheme. Currently, Shivani is a student of Standard 1 in that reputed institution.
In 2016, at the age of 4, Shivani Cherukuri won 2 bronze and 1 silver in Under-9 National Champion held at Tirupati. From the beginning, she was extremely agile and that quality was nurtured by her coach. According to Satyanarayan, “Our Indian archers are quite talented but it is the speed where they miss out. In Olympics there are specific targets to be made in a specific time. The accuracy along with swiftness is very important. We are training Shivani according to that only.”
This accuracy training in a specific time has made Shivani create two new records to enter the Asia Book of Records and again in the India Book of Records. On 11th September, the now 5-year-old, first shot 103 arrows to a distance of 10 metres in just 11 minutes and 19 seconds. For her second attempt, Shivani fired 36 arrows at a target from a distance of 20 metres in a record time of 5 minutes and eight seconds. Overall she scored 290 out of 360.
Hearing about this marvelous achievement of the little girl Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu congratulated by twitting, “Commend Baby Dolly Shivani Cherukuri for firing 103 arrows at a target 10 feet away in just 11 minutes, setting India, Asia Book of Records.”
Meanwhile, Satyanarayan and Krishna Kumari are the happiest person. Their ‘angel’ has come to their rescue in dire need, so they do not want to leave any stone unturned to make her the ‘queen’. Satyanarayan is ready to sell all his property to transform Shivani into a world-class archer. His only dream is to see Shivani in the Olympics winner podium.
“Our target is 2024 Olympics. Shivani will be 13 at that time. I am sure that if she gets the correct training she will definitely bring home a medal for India. But we need a top class coach to teach her the advanced techniques. I appeal for help from sponsors and the government.”