Kelmend Cekaj makes Albania’s world para championships debut in Den Bosch

6 June 2019
’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
The 2019 World Archery Para Championships were the 49-year-old’s first international event.

Kelmend Cekaj is the first para archer from Albania to shoot in the world championships.

“It’s an honour for me to be here. It’s a good experience and my first ever international competition or elimination match at this level,” said Kelmend. “I hope this can turn it into further opportunities.”

Seeded 58th after shooting 656 out of a possible 720 points for compound men’s open qualification, Kelmend saw himself into a first-round match against 17-year-old Canadian archer Rhys Leidal.

Kelmend lost the match, 131-138 – but picked up something else instead.

“This has been a great experience even though I didn’t win. I now know what it means to shoot 720 arrows at international events, the level it takes to be at the top and what other archers are up to,” he said.

The 49-year-old, who moved to a small town near the Italian city of Milan and started working at a factory, cut his right hand at work in an accident with one of the machines he uses daily.

Afterwards, he wanted to take up a sport. He tried shooting, but then moved to archery 18 months ago – and liked it. 

“I built my own release with the help of a friend. I shoot when I have time and I would like to compete more. Maybe try one more time at wherever the last places for the Paralympics are given and see how it goes,” said Kelmend.

Coached and assisted Elio Imbres, who is Italian, Kelmend said his home country supported his decision to compete at the para worlds in Netherlands.

“These championships are a great experience because I have met more people like me with disabilities; I can see we are all trying to make our equipment the best it can be to help us perform well in competition,” he said.

Kelmend’s event may be over but it won’t be the last time we see this trailblazer.

“I like that this [event] can help us change the idea of people treating us different, we deserve equality,” he said.

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.