From Blind Cricket to Para Archery, Pakistan’s Tanveer and Waleed aim to hit Bull’s Eye

Pakistan’s visually impaired archer Tanveer Ahmed was trying hard to adjust his equipment for the perfect shot. He was aiming to hit the bull’s eye as coach Muhammed Ijaz stood just two metres behind, updating him on each shot.

At the Dubai 2022 World Archery Para Championships, Ahmed and Waleed Aziz are the first visually impaired archers from Pakistan to shoot not just in a World Championships, but outside Pakistan. And both the archers wanted to make the debut “memorable”.

“I hit a few 8s and 7s but I am aiming to get the perfect 10. I hit it in my practice rounds here. I have to more focused and steadier,” said Ahmed before entering the quarter-finals with a 6-2 win over Great Britain’s Roger Rees-Evans in the grounds of the Dubai Club for People of Determination.

After the qualification, Ahmed was seeded 7th, a place ahead of his junior compatriot Waleed Aziz, who faltered in the pre-quarter-finals. Nevertheless, it was a “proud moment” for both the players to make their international debut at a World Championships.

“It’s awesome,” said Ahmed, who has low vision and shoots wearing an eyeshade, “We have come this far and I want to make the most of this opportunity. The journey has just begun and there’s a long way to go.

“When I started playing para-archery in 2017, playing at the World Championships was my biggest dream. Now I hope the visually impaired category is included in the Paralympics.”

Both the archers, who were national champions several times, played Blind Cricket for 16 years before they took up archery. “We both played Blind Cricket together in Pakistan. But our life took a new turn with archery.”

Archery gives motivation

“For us, archery gave us a new life. The more we shoot we feel good. We get motivated and full of energy. And hitting the bull’s eye is like just awesome,” said Waleed who was an all-rounder and currently is High Principal in Punjab School Education Department, Rawalpindi.

The duo also admitted that Paralympian Haider Ali’s historic gold medal for Pakistan was a “big motivation” for the para sport fraternity in the country.

Talking about the support for visually impaired archers in Pakistan, Ahmed said it is a new sport in the country and an organization, Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness, are supporting the visually impaired archery. “Initially we have done a lot of work; right from the set up to training. Now at times, we get small funds from various foundations.”

“In Pakistan, we have over 60 VI archers. We also have ground to train and sometimes we train with the Pakistan non-disabled national team,” the 38-year-old said about the facilities. 

And Waleed, who has had no vision since birth, hope their performance in Dubai will inspire many other visually impaired archers back in Pakistan.

“After returning home, we plan to go to other provinces and share our experiences from here with the young players. This Championship has given us great exposure; we are talking to the top players here, learning lots of new techniques and tactics. Our next target is the World Blind Games 2023,” concluded the 31-year-old Waleed, exuding confidence after playing his first few rounds here.

Pakistan’s Tanveer Ahmed and Waleed Aziz at a practice session in Dubai.

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