Archery brings ‘hope and positivity’ to ambitious Bakhtawar

Dubai: Bakhtawar Khalid Kayani, 28, strongly believes that sport has the power to change lives. For her, it was archery.

Archery has simply not given her a new direction in her life, but a new personality, which she says is much “stronger and more confident” since losing her sight gradually since 2014.

“Archery gives me hope, positivity and motivation in life,” said Bakhtawar, who started archery just a year ago and aspires to become Pakistan’s first visually impaired para-archer.

Bakhtawar, accompanied by her mother Hina Gul, was at the recently concluded Dubai 2022 Paralympic World Championships, not as a participant, but to watch and experience the championships, where her friends – Tanveer Ahmed and Waleed Aziz, also visually impaired archers – represented Pakistan for the first time in the visually impaired category.

Top Players

“Coming to the Dubai Championships 2022 was a great learning experience. I learned the rules, equipment specifications and met the legends of para-archery; I spoke with the best players like the Belgian world champion Ruben Vanhollebeke, the American Janice Walth and the British Roger Rees-Evans, etc. Their coaches also guided me in many things.

Tanveer Ahmed finally won silver at Dubai 2022 and the rookie archer is inspired by her senior teammate. “It was a real motivation. The Pakistani team was here for the first time, so they had no hope of a medal. But Tanveer has shown that hard work always pays off. Now I feel that if he can win a medal, so can I,” said the tenacious archer, who is about to compete in her first para-archery national championships in Pakistan.

Bakhtawar’s first contact with archery came during a training camp at Rawalpindi Stadium in July 2021.
Image Credit: Supplied

As she says, Bakhtawar is also aware of how much work she would have to do on her skills, physical and mental strength.

“I am already working on building my upper body strength. I also practice other endurance sports to develop my endurance and the abilities that an elite athlete should have.

A visit to the Pakistan Foundation for Fighting Blindness in Islamabad, an NGO working in the field of medical research and humanitarian services for the visually impaired in Pakistan, was also a revelation for the future archer. “I saw the life of blind people there, how they do their business on their own, their rehabilitation, their mobility, etc.

“There, I learned several ways to beat my eyesight. I realized there was no excuse for not having a vision.

Bakhtawar’s first contact with archery was during a training camp at Rawalpindi Stadium in July 2021. “Waleed invited me to one of his training camps and I was very happy to participate. It was a great learning experience. This is also where I realized how important sport is for a visually impaired person.

“Sport gives them hope, to compete, to socialize and to be in a community,” said Bakhtawar, who is currently registered with the Medical Council of Pakistan.

First love

But before getting into archery, biology was always Bakhtawar’s first love. And, thus, she chose to become a dentist and got admitted to Islamabad Medical and Dental College.

But fate had something else in store for the brilliant and ambitious Bakhtawar. Just during her first years in college, Bakhtawar complained of having low vision at night. She could write, but could not read her book. And gradually his vision deteriorated. So, in her senior year in 2016, her friends took turns reading the course materials to her and that was how she passed her exams.

“I was devastated,” mother Gul said when the family found Bakhtawar was losing her sight after several tests and doctor visits. “I had to change my whole routine, my house and my life. It was the difficult phase of our lives. But my daughter never gave up. She started learning talking software, became independent and found a job for a living, and now she wants to succeed in archery.

She also revealed the reason why Bakhtawar wants to become a champion archer. “It’s the only sport that revolves around sight. And here you have conquered your fear. I’m really proud of her.

Bakhtawar now hopes that a category of visually impaired will be included in the Paralympic Games.

“I hope one day I can represent Pakistan there. I don’t give up and I don’t get disappointed easily. So I figure being visually impaired is no excuse; you have to keep going. To try.

Earnest A. Martinez