Dubai: Twenty-eight-year-old Bakhtawar Khalid Kayani strongly believes that sport has the power to change one’s lives. For her, it was archery.
Archery just didn’t give her a new direction in her life but a new personality, which she says is much ‘stronger and confident’ since the gradual loss of her vision since 2014.
“Archery gives me hope, positivity and motivation in life,” said Bakhtawar, who has taken up archery just a year ago and aspires to become the first visually impaired woman para-archer from Pakistan.
Bakhtawar, accompanied by her mother Hina Gul, was at the recently- concluded Dubai 2022 World Archery Para Championships not as a participant but to watch and experience the Championships, where her friends – Tanveer Ahmed and Waleed Aziz, also visually impaired archers – were representing Pakistan for the first time in the visually impaired category.
“Coming to the Dubai 2022 Championships was a great learning experience. I learnt about rules, specification of equipment and met the para-archery legends; spoke with the top players like Belgium’s world champion Ruben Vanhollebeke, USA’s Janice Walth and UK’s Roger Rees-Evans etc. Their trainers also guided me in a lot of things.”
Tanveer Ahmed eventually went on to claim the silver medal at Dubai 2022 and the rookie archer is inspired by her senior fellow player. “This was a real motivation. The Pakistan team was here for the first time so they didn’t have medal expectation. But Tanveer showed hard work always pays off. Now I feel, if he can win medal, I can too,” said the tenacious archer, who is getting ready to take part in her first Para Archery National Championships in Pakistan.
As she says that, Bakhtawar is also aware the amount of work she would need to do on her skill, physical and mental strength.
“I am already working on building my upper body strength. I am also doing other endurance sport to build my stamina and capacities that an elite sportsman should have.”
Visiting the Pakistan Foundation for Fighting Blindness in Islamabad, a NGO working in the field of medical research and humanitarian services for the visually impaired persons in Pakistan, was also an eye opener for the upcoming archer. “I saw the blind people’s lives there, how they do their things by their own, their rehabilitation, mobility etc.
“There I learnt several ways to beat my eyesight. I realized that there is no excuse that I have no vision.”
Bakhtawar’s first contact with archery happened attending a boot camp at the Rawalpindi Stadium in July 2021. “Waleed invited me to one of his boot camps and I was very excited to participate in it. It was a great learning experience. It was also when I realized how much sport is important for a visually impaired person.
“Sport gives them hope, to compete, to socialize and be in a community,” said Bakhtawar, who is currently registered with the Pakistan Medical Council.
But before taking up archery, Biology has always been Bakhtawar’s first love. And, thus she chose to become dentist and got admission in the Islamabad Medical and Dental College.
But fate had something else in store for the bright and ambitious Bakhtawar. Just during the her initial years of her college, Bakhtawar complained about having low vision at night. She could manage to write, but couldn’t read her book. And gradually her vision got worse. So, in her final year in 2016 her friends took turn to read out the course material to her and that’s how she wrote her exams.
“I was devasted,” said mother Gul when the family discovered that Bakhtawar was losing her vision following several tests and doctor’s visits. “I had to change my whole routine, home set up and life. It was the difficult phase of our lives. But my daughter never gave up. She started learning talking software, made herself independent and took up job for living, and now she wants to make it big in archery.”
She also revealed the reason why Bakhtawar wants to become a champion archer. “This is the only sport all about eyesight. And here you beat your fear. I am really proud of her.”
Bakhtawar now hopes that a visually impaired category will be included in the Paralympic Games.
“I hope one day I can represent Pakistan there. I don’t give up or get disappointed easily. So, I tell myself being visually impaired is no excuse; you need to keep trying.”