Accident and archery unites three-man team around Rakesh Kumar
India’s Rakesh Kumar hit a competition best of 689 points during the compound men’s open ranking round in ’s-Hertogenbosch.
It was only two years ago that the 34-year-old took up the sport. He’s travelled to the 2019 World Archery Para Championships with his coach Kuldeep and brother Ayja.
The group believes he has a shot at gold.
“I think Rakesh lives 600 or 700 kilometres away from my hometown. I went there, I met him on the street. I told him about archery, motivated and invited him to try the sport. He wasn’t inspired so much,” said Kuldeep.
“But when he came to our ground and tried it out, I think he decided on that day he would be an archer.”
In 2018, Rakesh was part of a team that won the second leg of the European para archery circuit in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. He was a team bronze medallist at the Fazza para world ranking event earlier this year in Dubai, too.
There’s more to come from this relatively new archer.
“Ten years ago I had an accident, I sat at home and did nothing. I thought I could go out and do something different. Maybe my life would change that way,” he said.
Rakesh suffered a spinal injury in a car crash in 2007 and has limited mobility. He uses a wheelchair and relies on both his coach and brother Ayja.
“We’re now best friends. He’s doing very well and we're very close to each other. World Archery allows an athlete to invite an attendant, as well [as a coach],” explained coach Kuldeep.
“A coach’s tasks are different and an attendant’s work is different. He takes care of a person in a room, washes his clothes, does everything. Para archers can’t always do those things themselves. And Rakesh decided to call his brother.”
The highest-seeded Indian archer in the compound men’s open event shows plenty of gratitude towards the 26-year-old Ayja.
“From the day I had an accident, my brother has always supported me. And from the day I started archery, he's been with me on the ground,” said Rakesh.
This team – of family, of friends – has a clear goal.
“Our main aim is to achieve gold at the 2020 Summer Paralympics. We’re interested only in gold,” said coach Kuldeep.
“And here, in the Netherlands, definitely gold is our target, as well.”
The 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships take place on 10-16 June and World Archery Para Championships on 3-9 June in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.