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Who is Sheetal Devi? World’s No. 1 Para Archer & Winner of Arjuna Awards, All At Just 17

Arjuna Awardee Sheetal Devi is a para-archer from Jammu and Kashmir who overcame her phocomelia condition to become the world's first armless female archer. She not only claimed medals at the Para World Archery Championships and the Para Asian Games but also emerged as a symbol of breaking barriers.

Who is Sheetal Devi? World’s No. 1 Para Archer & Winner of Arjuna Awards, All At Just 17

On 9 January 2024, para-archer Sheetal Devi was conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award for her extraordinary accomplishments in para-archery. The teenage girl from Jammu and Kashmir is renowned as the world’s first armless female archer.

“This day is special!! Honoured to receive the prestigious Arjuna Award from the honourable President of India. Thank you all for the love, support and encouragement,” she said on X (formerly Twitter).

Hailing from the Loidhar village of Kishtwar, Sheetal was born with phocomelia, a rare medical condition that affected her arm development. Nevertheless, it did not hamper her determination to pursue archery. She was inspired by watching paralympic swimmer Sharath Gayakwad and blind Indian cricketer Shekhar Naik to pursue sports.

In 2021, Sheetal entered into the realm of para-archery when scouts observed her prowess in archery at a local event that was organised by the Indian Army. Soon, she began her training for para archery at the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Sports Complex in Katra.

Before her, the coaches had never trained someone without upper limbs, but they had full faith in the young girl’s determination.

She received guidance from former archer and coach Kuldeep Vedwan. Under his guidance, she developed and redefined her skills to adopt a technique of utilising her feet and legs for shooting. With this, she developed physical prowess — a crucial foundation for her pursuit of archery.

In 2022, Sheetal participated in the Junior National Championships among abled archers in Goa. Although she did not win a medal in that tournament, she hogged the limelight with her distinctive performance, leaving everyone spellbound by sitting on a chair and shooting the bow with her leg.

While other archers pride themselves on their arm strength and dexterity, Sheetal credited her legs for this.

And since then, there has been no looking back.

Using her upper body and lower limbs to shoot the arrow, she also emerged as the first armless woman to clinch a Para World Archery Championships medal in 2023. She defeated Singapore’s Alim Nur Syahidah 144-142 in the gold medal-deciding fixture.

At the age of 16, Sheetal scripted history at the Para Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, China, by winning three medals — two gold and one silver.

With this, she became the first Indian woman athlete to claim two gold medals in a single edition of the Asian Para Games. She also succeeded in bagging a silver medal in the women’s doubles competition.

She continued to showcase her skills at the inaugural edition of the Khelo India Para Games 2023, clinching a gold medal.

Sheetal has also received appreciation from the Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Anurag Thakur, who stated that the world has to learn a lot from her. He tweeted, “Sheetal, you are a role model for the nation and the world; you have made the world acknowledge your passion, zeal, and hard work. May you continue to push boundaries and inspire us to do so.”

Having performed brilliantly, Sheetal is now an inspiration for everyone who wants to break free.

Meet Sheetal Devi: Para-Archer From J&K Honoured With Arjuna Award: Published by Times Now on 9 January 2024.
Sheetal Devi: The inspiring story of India’s armless archer who is an Asian champion: Published by Firstpost on 9 January 2024.

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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