The mixed team of para archers, Sheetal Devi and Rakesh Kumar, in a fierce competition, clinched the gold medal in the compound open archery event at the Asian Para Games 2023, outclassing the formidable Chinese team.
The final match saw Sheetal and Rakesh facing off against the formidable Chinese pair, Yueshan and Xinliang. The Indian duo started strong, winning the opening series 37-35.
Despite a tough fight from the Chinese side, the Indians maintained their composure, shooting an impressive 39, while China managed only 37, securing the gold medal for the Indian team. This victory marked the second medal in this edition of the Para Games for both archers.
Rakesh had earlier won a silver medal in the Men’s Doubles compound alongside Suraj Singh, while Sheetal also secured a silver in the Women’s Doubles event.
Hailing from Natalie village of Katra, Reasi, para archer Rakesh showcased his exceptional skills, while Archer Sheetal Devi from a remote village in the hilly Kishtwar district, who is without arms, displayed unmatched courage and determination. Both players are international athletes associated with the Sports Stadium of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.
Who is Sheetal Devi?
Sheetal Devi hails from Jammu and Kashmir’s Lohi Dhar village of Kishtwar district. Born without arms, a phone call with coach Kuldeep Kumar changed her life as it was he who encouraged her to take up the sport. She trains at his Mata Vaishno Devi Archery Academy.
The 16-year-old holds the bow and shoots with her foot. Within her first 12 months in Archery, she won national medals and qualified for the Para Asian Games by finishing first in the trials.
In July, she made her World Archery Para Championships debut. Sheetal was the only archer to compete without arms in the event. She finished fourth in the qualification with 689 points. Along with compatriot Sarita, who finished first with 692, the duo set the world record for women’s doubles.
Sheetal Devi then went on to win the silver medal in the individual event. She went down fighting 138-140 against Turkey’s Oznur Cure in the final. The result helped her qualify for the 2024 Paralympics.
Now competing in her maiden Asian Para Games, Sheetal Devi is now aiming to add an individual medal to her kitty. She will be facing compatriot Sarita in the semifinal of the Women’s Singles on Friday.
Meanwhile, Anshul Garg, Chief Executive Officer of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, has expressed happiness over the victory of both players.
He said that Shrine Board archers Sheetal and Rakesh won the gold medal for India against China in the Para Asian Games Hangzhou 2023. “May Mata Vaishno Devi shower her blessings on the players trained in the Trikuta foothills and may they achieve more achievements for Team India,” he said