Published: 22nd June 2018
Meet India's first teeth archer Abhishek Thaware who battled a polio attack to train for Asian Para Games
By the time he was in eighth grade, Thaware got involved in athletics. He was introduced to cross country running and soon, he was winning almost every competition he participated in
When life knocks you down, you have two options — sit down and brood or get up and keep walking. Twenty-eight-year-old Abhishek Thaware chose the latter and that made all the difference. Having lost the use of his right arm to a polio infection, Abhishek used what he could and became India's first teeth archer.
He was just a year old when he developed a high fever one night and was rushed to a hospital in Nagpur, where he grew up. After necessary treatment, the fever subsided, but the doctors soon realised that he couldn't move his right arm. Diagnosing it as polio, they informed Abhishek's family that he wouldn't be able to move his right arm again. His family members were so heartbroken believing that he wouldn't be able to live a normal life. They tried to get him the best possible treatments, but it was all in vain. Despite his disability, Abhishek's family decided to admit him into a regular school and Abhishek feels that that was a great decision because he got to live just like the others.
Cruel fate: Abhishek was just one year old when he was had a polio attack
Abhishek had gotten so used to not using his right arm that he didn't feel he was disabled. His legs were enough to make him feel completely able. By the time he was in eighth grade, he got involved in athletics. He even took part in competitions. He was introduced to cross country running and soon, he was winning almost every competition in the state of Maharashtra. But his share of struggles was far from over. An irreparable knee injury put an end to his running dreams. "The doctors informed me that I wouldn't be able to run professionally again. I almost went into depression because I thought running was my life. I didn't have a backup plan," says Abhishek.
This was until a friend of his suggested that he take up archery. Abhishek was quite interested in the idea. "I didn't know anything about archery before that, but once I tried it, it changed my life," says Abhishek. He went on to win several state and national-level championships. It was quite a difficult training process though. "Since I didn't have a right hand, I had to tie a string to the arrow and use my teeth to pull it while using my left hand to support the bow," says Abhishek. When asked what he loves about the sport, he says, "Archery has given me something to look forward to in life. It is a game of patience and has taught me to keep in control many other aspects of my life."
Winning streak: Abhishek won several state and national-level championships in archery while in school
But it is also an expensive game, he admits. His mother had to sell her gold to buy what he needed. "Each time I buy arrows, it costs me about Rs 35,000. Diet, training and other equipment cost me a few lakhs. Sometimes, I rely on friends, sometimes I get sponsors, but there is no stable income. It's like I keep playing and keep winning, but there's no feeling of security," he says.
Currently, Abhishek is training to be selected for the upcoming Asian Para Games to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia this year. "There are three people who play a crucial role in any country. It's soldiers who keep us safe, farmers who keep us well fed and our sportspersons who make our country proud. So that's my dream as well, to make my country proud. I hope to win a medal in Jakarta this year," he adds.