Sheetal Devi, an Indian para-athlete, has been making waves in the world of archery at both national and international levels. Born in 2007 in the remote village of Loi Dhar in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, she has overcome incredible odds to achieve greatness in her chosen sport.
Despite facing challenges due to her disability, Sheetal’s determination and the support of her family and friends allowed her to excel in her studies. In 2022, her talent caught the attention of coach Kuldeep Vedwan, who invited her to join the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Archery Academy in Katra. Here, Sheetal underwent rigorous training and learned to shoot the bow with her feet and chest since she was born without hands.
Within six months of training, Sheetal not only mastered the unique technique but also started participating in competitions. The army recognized her exceptional talent and sponsored her education, while also providing assistance in arranging medical aid and prosthetic limbs.
Her journey as an athlete began in November 2022, competing against able-bodied athletes in the Junior National Archery Championship. Subsequently, she performed remarkably well in Khelo India Nationals and Women’s Khelo India Games.
In May 2023, Sheetal made her international debut in a para tournament in the Czech Republic, winning two silver medals and a bronze. Her achievements continued as she participated in the Para Archery Championship 2023, where she secured the fourth position in the compound women’s qualifying round and eventually reached the world finals. Sheetal made history by becoming the first female armless archer to achieve such a feat.
Throughout her journey, Sheetal has been supported by her family, including her father, a farmer, and her mother, a goatherd, as well as her younger sister, Shivani.
Despite facing initial challenges, Sheetal’s dedication and hard work paid off, and she now serves as an inspiration to many. Her story is a testament to the power of determination and the ability to achieve greatness against all odds.
In summary, Sheetal Devi’s extraordinary journey from a remote village in Jammu and Kashmir to becoming a trailblazing para-athlete in archery is a story of courage, perseverance, and triumph. Her accomplishments are not only remarkable but also inspiring, and she continues to make a significant impact in the world of sports.
Medals & Achievements of Sheetal Devi
1. A Silver in Khelo India Nationals
2. A Bronze in Women’s Khelo India Games
3. Two Silver medals and a bronze medal at a Para
4. Tournament in the Czech Republic
5. Secured first position at the Para Asian Games trials
Facts about Sheetal Devi
1. Sheetal was born without hands at birth.
2. Sheetal emulates the renowned archer Matt Stutzman by gripping her bow with the assistance of her foot
4. In 2022, when Sheetal started archery, she became the world’s first female archer without hands. However, in 2023 there are a total of six archers without hands in the world. In July 2023, Sheetal held the world rank 18 in Compound Women Open.
5. Until July 2023, her Qualification best score in Compound Women was 682. In an interview, while talking about Sheeta, her coach Kuldeep Vedwan said, – She came over eight months ago to the academy and started practising. She was born without arms and her ability was obvious to everyone. Her dedication to the sport can be realised by the fact that she comes to practice early in the morning and then leaves for school. She returns to practice after classes. When there is a holiday, she starts at 7 am, breaks for lunch and then finishes at 5 pm. Sheetal is a ara athlete but she is competing with normal athletes. There is a selection process which is conducted for a tournament which she participated in and she did very well.”
6. In an interview, Sheetal revealed that she initially desired to have prosthetics to lead a normal life and pursue a teaching career. However, her life took a remarkable turn when she crossed paths with Preethi Rai, the founder of an NGO called ‘Being You’ in Bengaluru. Preethi was the one who identified Sheetal’s inner strength and encouraged her to explore archery as a potential career choice. Initially hesitant, Sheetal eventually made the decision to join the academy and embark on her journey in the sport.
7. In 2023, Sheetal was the only armless archer who competed at the World Para Championships.
8. In a media conversation, coach Abhilasha from the Shrine Board Academy shared the challenges they faced while introducing Sheetal to archery. She said that upon witnessing other para-archers in the academy, Sheetal was inspired and keen to pursue the sport. The academy arranged a special bow for her, and remarkably, within just six months, she mastered archery. Sheetal even started participating alongside regular archers, not just para-archers. Teaching archery to Sheetal, especially the technique of shooting arrows without hands, proved to be a difficult task for her coaches. To assist her, Kuldeep and Abhilasha showed Sheetal videos of Matt Stutzman, a renowned armless archer from the USA, which greatly aided her progress. Matt himself visited the academy, met Sheetal, and provided valuable suggestions for modifying her bow. With a Paralympic medal-winning background, Matt scored 685 points, while Sheetal excelled with 689 points in her achievements at the academy.