The country’s first woman para-athlete, Kinley Dem, is busy practising at the Changlimithang shooting range in Thimphu.
Her inability to move around like others has not deterred the 26-year old athlete from Wangdue. Like all athletes, Kinley too has a dream to make it big in the sporting realm. She is a shooter with the Bhutan Shooting Federation (BSF).
Given the limited mobility and the challenges associated with her condition, the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) has provided her with a temporary space near her training room for free. She also receives a monthly diet allowance of Nu 7,500 from BOC.
While she stays alone, her sister, who is a coach with BSF, assists her during her training and other chores. However, life wasn’t as difficult some 14 years ago. “I could partly walk using a walking stick until the age of 12. But things became worse afterwards. I couldn’t walk at all then.”
Kinley never went to school. In absence of formal education, she undertook religious practices under the guidance of her grandfather until 2011. After her grandfather passed away, she came to Thimphu and stayed with her sister.
In 2017, when the paralympic games were introduced in the country, Kinley’s sister encouraged her to participate in shooting field. “I was happy and agreed to her. My regular training started only by mid-2018, and it was my sister, who trained me,” she said.
Kinley’s international debut was at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Her next competition in Dubai last year was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Kinley said that, as a shooter, besides keeping the mind strong, the body had to be also trained and this posed a major challenge to her. “It’s very painful to exercise as I can’t stretch my legs. But the good thing is that my upper body functions normally.”
She added; “The greatest difficulty is when I have to move outside; in a vehicle or to the hospital. When there’s no training, I usually stay at home.”
Kinley feels that sports have given her another opportunity in life. “Athletes like us can train and deliver to the best of our abilities. The government also has to make conducive environment for people like us to perform.”
She added that, despite the will and interest, many like her could not join para-sports due to different circumstances. “I encourage others like me to come forward and participate. Staying home idle will help no one, and it might instead result in more health complications.”