The three men who won the bronze for India at the Asian Para Archery Championship held in Bangkok recently.

When asked about the challenges of being an archer with a disability, polio-victim Vilas Dawane reacts with a mix of pain and suppressed anger. “I don't see myself as someone with a disability, for the reason that everyone is ‘disabled' in some way. Some have clearly noticeable disabilities, others have hidden ones,” says the 45-year-old Army man from Ahmednagar. “Most people lack mental strength, a disability that often eludes notice.”

Teaming up with Sandip Narata Gawai and Munguesh Kuttikar – also victims of polio – Vilas clinched the bronze for the country in the Compound Event at the Asian Para Archery Championship 2011 (APAC) held in Bangkok from May 10-17. The three victors – and others in the Indian team to APAC – were felicitated at the Nehru Stadium by the Tamil Nadu Paralympic Association, which had also sponsored the team's trip to Thailand. A beaming Vilas attributes their success to single-mindedness and resilience, both on and off the archery range.

Sandip (32), who barely makes a living from his shop in Kanpur, had not been able to compete in the compound bow category all these years for want of money to buy the necessary equipment. “A compound bow costs Rs 70, 000, and if you count all the other essential equipment, the cost goes up to Rs 1.5 lakh,” he says. “With money saved for my brother's wedding, I bought the kit.”

Since the family had made this sacrifice, Sandip had to muster all the powers of his mind and win a medal.

Manguesh (40), a senior-level clerk at the Margoa Port Trust and a competition-level swimmer, is a late entrant to archery. Two years ago, a chance meeting with Deepa Malik – an inspiration for many wheel-chair bound athletes – at Karnal (Haryana) led him to the sport. “But for Deepa, I would have continued to be ignorant about the newly-established Paralympic Archery Federation. I contacted Vilas, who guided me into the sport.” Manguesh was lucky in having his compound bow and related equipment sponsored by a good samaritan in Goa via the State Government.