New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS): As the clock ticks down for the Paralympic Summer Games in Paris in 2024, World No.1 para-archer Sheetal Devi is now focused on repeating her gold medal-winning performance of the Asian Para Games at next year's mega event.
“I have my eyes on the Paris Paralympics. I am putting all efforts to ensure that the Indian flag flies high on the podium and I bring back as many medals as possible,” she said.
Sheetal Devi's story is one of fierce grit and determination, but many are still unaware of her incredible journey about how she took up archery and emerged as a champion athlete.
The young archer from Jammu and Kashmir, who bagged two gold medals and a silver at the recent Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China, is the biggest example and flagbearer of the positive impact of the journey of para-sportspersons on society.
"Until a couple of years back I had not even stepped out of Jammu and Kashmir. It feels a little overwhelming when I go around representing India in different countries. I handle those moments calmly and ensure I hit the bullseye,” the archer commented while reminiscing how as a 14-year-old she came in touch in 2021 with Being You, a Bangalore-based storytelling startup.
Coming in contact with Being You, which focuses on documenting and celebrating human stories as they believe that positive stories inspire Individuals and society, which changed her life completely.
When Sheetal realised that the prosthetics didn’t work for her, she and her family had left all hope. That is when she saw the stories of para-athletes Sharath Gaekwad and Shekhar Naik from the book - Being You: Against All Odds, written by Preethi, which got her all inspired.
“When we first met her in Bengaluru in 2021, Sheetal was keen to only have prosthetic hands. After a lot of convincing, she decided to take up sports. I and my team and I were convinced that Sheetal had all the qualities and abilities to become an athlete," said Preethi.
"With the help of GoSports, we reached out to sports physio Srikanth Iyengar, and he recognised her sublime core strength, which she had developed while regularly climbing trees in her village and that is how it was decided that she should take up archery,” Preethi added.
The 16-year-old has achieved a lot in the last two years, and it is just the beginning of a massive success journey that no one possibly ever imagined for her.
The para-archer's journey took flight as she started to clinch victories in national and international competitions, culminating in a stellar performance at the Asian Para Games 2023, where she secured two gold and one silver medal.
Already the No.1 para archer in the world after terrific performances in recent tournaments, Sheetal aims to bring more laurels to the country.
Sheetal will continue to train for the forthcoming competitions at the Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board Sports Complex in Katra, which has constantly supported the para archer since she took up the sport. Keeping the funds going has always been a formidable task.
As she has already started preparing for the Paralympics, her focus now is on following her training regime.
"My present form, diet and focus align with what I need to do to train for the Paris Paralympics 2024. I will continue to improve my game and focus on acing it there,” she concluded.
Sheetal recently unveiled the cover page of the second edition of 'Being You: Against all Odds' by Being You founder Preethi, the same book that inspired her to take up the sport.
The first edition of the book was launched in 2021 with 100 Inspiring stories of extraordinary Indians who have achieved the unthinkable, going against all the odds. The book went on to inspire numerous people including Sheetal. The second edition of the book will be launched in January 2024, with a special exclusive story of Sheetal and her unbelievable journey.