Above: Kanchumarthi (center), Meghan Collins CC'22 (left), and Olivia Cho CC'23 (right) at the 2021 Collegiate Target Nationals in Richmond, Virginia
Archer Nidhi Kanchumarthi ’23 got involved in her sport at a young age, after being inspired by a fictional character and a trip to the local archery range with her dad. Since then, Kanchumarthi has ranked third in the California Cadet Recurve competition and was selected to the USA Archery Junior Dream Team, prior to coming to Barnard. She has also been honored as a 2020 All-American and member of the 2020 All-American Academic team. In addition to her studies as a neuroscience and behavior major with a minor in Spanish and Latin American cultures, Kanchumarthi competes with Columbia’s archery team through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, a unique partnership in which Barnard students and Columbia undergraduates participate in NCAA Division 1 athletics.
Archery helps to balance Kanchumarthi’s life as a Barnard student and athlete who trains competitively on a regular basis, while pursuing her passions in neuroscience research. Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kanchumarthi and her team won silver in the recurve team rounds event at the 2021 Collegiate Outdoor Nationals.
In this “Barnard’s Got Game” Q&A, Kanchumarthi shares what she’s learned from being a college athlete, her love for archery, and what she’s looking forward to in the future as a Barnard student.
How does being an athlete influence your college experience?
Upon joining Columbia’s archery team and the Barnard academic community in my first year, I found that the skills I work on developing on the archery field have complementary applications in my academic and professional life. I practice time management drills to shoot six arrows in under four minutes when I’m on the field, which taught me how to efficiently schedule my club events, classes, and study time when I’m off the field. I apply the same focus required for deliberate practice to perfect my shot when performing [tasks] as a research assistant. Stepping into the team captain role in my sophomore year required me to transition from viewing myself as an individual competitor to one who now prioritizes the team’s success. I have new appreciation and awareness for building a cohesive team culture and bridging the connection between the team and the athletic coaching staff. In my past two seasons as an athlete, I’ve met a talented group of archers, alongside the greater Columbia-Barnard Athletics community, who inspire me to train harder and pursue my professional aspirations.
How did you first get into archery, and how has it affected you since?
Inspired by Katniss Everdeen, [the character] from The Hunger Games, my dad and I took a trip to a local archery range where we competed with each other to see who could hit more bullseyes. I fell in love with this process of striving for perfection and began training competitively in UC Berkeley’s Junior Olympic Archery Development program. Ranking third in California and 13th in the country, I was selected for the USA Archery Junior Dream Team. As a JDT archer, I competed on the international stage, placing 10th at the Mexican Grand Prix. Constantly raising the bar and setting higher goals, I was excited to continue archery in college. I would never have guessed that my admiration for a fictional character would have been the catalyst for my archery journey. In the process, I’ve met outstanding archers and mentors who make this pursuit meaningful for me. Even though we come from all corners of the world, each with our own unique experiences, we are united in our love for archery.
Do you have a favorite Barnard Athletics memory?
The 2021 Collegiate Outdoor Nationals was a unique tournament in Columbia’s archery history. Due to uncertainty over whether we could compete safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, we found out that we would be competing just 10 days before the tournament. Despite more than half of us still being scattered across the country and not having practiced together as a team in over a year, it was incredible to see everyone’s dedication and enthusiasm to compete again. We doubled down at practice in the days leading up to Nationals, unified by our excitement to represent Columbia again. After a four-day event of qualification rounds and head-to-head matches, we dominated the field and took home silver in the recurve team rounds. Getting back on the competition field was a surreal experience, defined by reuniting with my archery family again. Our win at Nationals proved that we remained strong as a connected unit, despite being disconnected from each other for so long.
What are your interests outside of archery and academics?
You can find me playing the piano when I’m not on the archery field or in the classroom. My love for the piano comes from the joy my music brings to other people — I love surprising someone by playing their favorite songs.The COVID-19 pandemic showed me the importance of music therapy, which I used to nurture my relationships with others. Hoping to foster social connections despite physical isolation, I founded the Connecting Generations volunteer project with Columbia’s Public Health Club, allowing students the opportunity to provide companionship and support to an older adult. Through this matching program, I’ve met an incredible senior citizen in the Morningside Heights community. Since she is a huge classical music fan, I’ve expanded my repertoire to include some of her favorite pieces from Mozart and Bach.
What are your postgraduate plans?
I plan to attend medical school upon graduating, and I see myself as a physician with an emphasis in sport-related medicine. In addition, I intend to continue competing in archery while also helping up-and-coming archers achieve their dreams.
—SOLBY LIM ’22
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