Five Indian archers honoured at the Times of India sports awards

Sheetal Devis was silver medallist at 2023 World Para Championships.

Sheetal Devi, along with four fellow archers – Ojas Deotale, Jyothi Vennam, Aditi Swami and Rakesh Kumar were honoured with Times of India sports awards for 2023 at a glittering ceremony in Lucknow, on 23 February.

The sixth edition of the awards, more commonly known as TOISA, bestowed upon standout athletes across various sport disciplines in 20 categories, celebrating the remarkable achievements and unwavering commitment of India’s elite athletes.

Devi was rewarded with the title of para sportperson of the year jointly with javelin thrower Sumit Antil, as well as female para archer of the year.

“Thank you for recognising my effort,” said the 17-year-old. “This is an important year for all of us and recognition like these is a big boost in our preparation for the Paralympics.”

“My journey has just begun and there’s a long way to go where I aspire to bring more laurels to my country,” she added, as she gets ready for the final world qualification tournament for the Paris 2024 Paralympics on 2-7 March in Dubai.

Rakesh Kumar became India’s first-ever gold medallist in the World Archery Para Championships when he claimed the world title in mixed team event alongside Sarita last summer. The 39-year-old was named male para archer of the year

Ojas Deotale and Jyothi Vennam were presented with the archers of the year awards in the male and female categories, while teenage sensation Aditi Swami was named the emerging sportsperson of the year, along with shooter Esha Singh.

Recurve archer Atanu Das was previously named archer of the year in 2017.

Rakesh Kumar and Sarita won world championships mixed team gold in 2023.

Honours continue to come in for Indian compound archery for a phenomenal 2023 season and ground-breaking successes in major international events.

The prominent one among the list of outstanding performers is a 17-year-old armless archer who has created a stir with her extraordinary talent. The Times of India sports trophies follow a breakthrough season in which Devi became Asian Para Games champion and was silver medallist at the World Archery Para Championships.

The para world number one in the compound women’s category was among the recipients of the prestigious Arjuna, India’s second-highest sporting honour, and Sportstar Aces awards earlier this year.

Her glittering cabinet also includes World Archery’s para woman of the year and Asian Paralympic Committee’s best youth athlete honours.

Vennam, too, had a remarkable season last year, clinching a hat-trick of gold medals – individual, mixed and team compound – at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

The 27-year-old was also part of India’s gold medal winning compound women’s team at the world championships.

“Recognitions always motivate us (athletes) to continue the process towards our dreams,” said Vennam. “We should never forget from where everything has begun, stay grounded and motivated to achieve our goals and make our nation proud.”

The compound woman was named female athlete of the year by ESPN India and nominated in two categories for the Sportstar Aces Awards earlier this year.

Deotale won historic compound men’s gold at the World Archery Championships.

Deotale won a historic compound men’s gold at the World Archery Championships in Berlin last summer, before also winning a hat-trick of three gold medals – individual, team and mixed team – at the Asian Games in Hangzhou. 

“2023 was a memorable season for me,” he said. “Right from the [start], it has been amazing – I won many medals and matured as a player.”

“I hope I can continue bringing laurels to my country.”

“To win the TOISA award was an honour. It was also a great feeling to share the stage with some of the legends whom I have always admired,” added Deotale, awaiting the final national trials.

Swami’s season included incredible feats when she became the youngest World Archery Champion of the modern era at just 17, winning the compound women’s event. 

She also became India’s first-ever senior world champion in her debut international season, while she had two gold medals at the 2023 World Archery Youth Championships and was part of India’s historic gold medal-winning Indian team at the Asian Games.

Deotale and Swami were also awarded with Arjuna Awards in January, alongside Devi.

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