Sarti’s switch: From wheelchair basketball to archery

16 September 2016
Rio de Janeiro (BRA)
She was inspired after watching the archery competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Eleonora Sarti watched archery during the London 2012 Paralympics and quickly fell in love with the sport. The beauty of it, the individuality of it and the fact that para archers could participate in able-bodied competition appealed to her.

“I was immediately drawn to archery,” Sarti said. “I knew that I needed to start shooting.”

Sarti was a wheelchair basketball player in Italy’s national team at the time. When she began shooting competitively in 2013, Sarti tried to keep playing both sports but eventually decided to focus on archery.

“Once I tried it, I knew that archery could be my world,” Sarti said. “I feel very confident and secure with a bow in my hand.”

The compound archer climbed to quick success on the international level and at the 2015 World Archery Para Championships in Donaueschingen, Germany she claimed three medals: bronze in the mixed team with Alberto Simonelli, bronze in the compound women’s open team event and individual gold.

She misses her wheelchair basketball teammates, but does not regret her choice.

“It’s exciting to compete in a multi-sport event because now I can connect with my old friends,” Sarti said.

Sarti cannot watch the wheelchair basketball matches, because they take place over the same dates as her para archery competition.

Her plan was to climb the podium in all her events – but she and Simonelli lost to Great Britain, the eventual silver medallists, early in the compound open mixed team event. She qualified seventh overall in the individual competition.

“I have many emotions that I cannot deny,” Sarti said. “There is fear going into each competition but I know that I am living my dream here.”

Her proudest moment, she said, was a call up to the able-bodied Italian archery team for the World Archery Indoor Championships in Ankara, Turkey in March 2016. She won bronze with the compound women’s team and in lost in the individual quarterfinals to Russia’s Albina Loginova.

Sarti was the second Paralympic female athlete to shoot on both para and able-bodied squads in Italy after Paola Fantato participated in both the 1996 Olympics and Paralympics.

She had hoped that the compound bow might be included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games so she could compete there.

"Archery is one of the few disciplines that puts everyone on the same level,” Sarti said. “It will mean that, maybe, I'll have to dream for Rome in 2024. In any case I make a promise to be there.”

The para archery competition at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games runs 10-17 September in the Sambodromo.