Sheetal Devi secured gold, silver and bronze medals in the para-archery world championship in the Czech Republic, etching her name in history as the world’s first armless woman archer
Inspiring Stories

Sheetal, Born Without Arms, Is An Ace Archer

From climbing trees in childhood that strengthened her muscles to winning gold medals in the Asian Para Games 2023, Sheetal Devi is an inspiration

Written By: | Edited By: | November 10, 2023 हिन्दी में पढ़े

Delhi: Sheetal Devi, 16, made headlines for winning three medals at the Asian Para Games held in Hangzhou, China recently. She won the medals in archery. Her story is intriguing because she was born without arms.

Her condition is medically called Phocomelia, which causes under-developed limbs. Hailing from a small village in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir, she never imagined an achievement as big as this was possible in her life. She says,

“Life was full of challenges, didn’t imagine doing something this big, from my mountainous homeland to the international sporting arena, it has been quiet a journey.”

Also Read: From Utter Despair To Becoming A Face Of Kashmir’s Sporting Success: Meet Para Athlete, Gowhar Ahmad

From Climbing Trees To Winning Gold – Sheetal Devi’s Journey

Sheetal Devi’s inspiring story is a testament to the indomitable power of the human spirit. Even as a child climbing trees was her favourite pastime. Little did she know back then that the muscles she developed by climbing trees would one day help her win gold on an international stage. Talking to a news agency, she said,

“”Bachpan mein bas trees ki oochaaniyaan ko chooona chahiti thi, yahi cheez mujhe hamesha khush rakhti thi (I wanted to touch the heights of the trees that was the only thing which made me happy).”

In 2019, she was spotted by the Indian Army at a youth sports event in Kishtwar. The Indian Army took her under its wing and started to provide both educational support and facilitated medical assistance. The army even helped Devi get a prosthetic arm from Bengaluru, but it didn’t work out as the fitting was not right for her. During that period, she was introduced to many sportspersons who motivated her to take up para sports.

After a series of tests, Sheetal Devi was guided to take up para-archery and was introduced to coaches Kuldeep Baidwan and Abhilasha Chaudhary. From 2022, with support from the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Sheetal Devi started getting her training for the para sports.

She underwent rigorous training and honed her skills in archery.

She underwent rigorous training and honed her skills in archery.

Also Read: Why Accessibility Remains A Roadblock For People With Disabilities

Coaches Abhilasha Chaudhary and Kuldeep Vedwan had never trained an archer without arms. Talking about Sheetal Devi they said,

“In 2012 London Paralympics silver medalist Matt Stutzman used his legs to shoot. We took our inspiration from there and decided to train Sheetal Devi like that. We modified a locally made releaser into a shoulder releaser, put together a string mechanism for the chin and mouth to create the trigger to help her release the arrow. We improvised based on what we saw Mark Stutzman using.”

Talking about the training, the coaches said,

“Sheetal started by shooting 50-100 arrows daily; the count went up to 300 as her strength improved. In a short span of time, she turned into an ace para-archer and started to make headlines. She has helped India won a silver medal at the Para Open Nationals in Sonepat. In the para-archery world championship in the Czech Republic in initial months of 2023, she secured gold, silver and bronze medals, etching her name in history as the world’s first armless woman archer. And now she has won three medals in Asian Para Games. This is just the beginning.”

The archer added that her coach motivated her constantly.

Meet 16-Year-Old Sheetal Devi, World’s First Armless Woman Archer

Sheetal Devi said that she never thought she could achieve this milestone.

While speaking to the press after her win at the Asian Para Games recently she said,

“I felt very good after winning 3 medals. When I started Archery, I never thought I could do this. Today I gave my country 3 medals and I feel very happy.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also met Sheetal Devi personally to congratulate her for achieving such a huge milestone in her life. He shared a tweet as well to congratulate Sheetal Devi and said, “Proud of Sheetal Devi on her extraordinary Gold Medal in Archery Women’s Individual Compound open event at the Asian Para Games. This achievement is a testament to her grit and determination.”

A tweet was also shared by Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in which PM Modi is seen blessing Sheetal Devi with his right hand on the teen’s head. He captioned the post, “Blessings full of faith.”

Also Read: At Hangzhou Para Asian Games, Indian Athletes Create History, Bag 111 Medals

Sheetal Devi also spoke about her meeting with the Prime Minister and how it motivated her to do better in future. She told the press,

“We will fully prepare for the Paralympic Games to be held in Paris next year so that we get medals for our country. I met the Prime Minister. He blessed me. He motivated me to continue playing better in the days to come.”

Signing off, Sheetal Devi gave a special message for all the women out there, she added,

“My message is that they should work hard with dedication. My coach gave me a life lesson on focusing on one particular thing in life and not worrying about the end result, I did the same, I dedicated all my energy towards focusing on things I love, and during my game, that thought helped me, I have won the gold.”

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