Shooting with unseen bows for a giant visible goal

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Forty-nine young people draw their invisible bows in six different steps to the loud calls of their instructors at Changlingmithang field for full five week days. Along with the drawing of imaginary bows (sometimes replaced by rubber bands), to develop the right form for shooting arrows, they also undergo physical trainings such as running, stretching and weight trainings. They sometimes get an opportunity to experience an actual bow, which the instructors call the ‘training bow’ – a bow with lower poundage. But that is rare because for now, the beginners have “to develop the right form to be able to shoot well”, according to the Assistant Coach of Bhutan Archery Federation (BAF), Tshering Choden.

These people are confined to shooting invisible arrows with invisible bows, at least for a month, as part of their trainings. And it was at the beginning of the New Year that saw BAF quietly embark on this new strategy to improve the Bhutanese competitive archery skills, by selecting some young Bhutanese with interest in the national game for the training and to gauge their potential to be life-long professional archers. They call it “Talent Hunt” The federation has clearly outlined the goal, which is to win medals in the future Olympics. Lyponpo Kinzang Dorji, the President of BAF, says that the ultimate goal of the new programme is to train archers from a young age to be “world-class” and “win medals” in the Olympics, in particular during the 2016 Olympics, as the present training would be inadequate to compete well in London. “We have already won at the Asian games, where about 45 countries participate – we hope to reach the next level,” he said.

Lyonpo, who has seen archery grow in Bhutan and has been the President of BAF since 1988, said he was impressed with the talent and aptitude of the young archers who were being trained, and saw a tremendous potential in them to be truly worldclass archers.

This programme has been started in the capital, but the federation plans to take it to the regions. In the immediate future, depending on the approval of funds by the International Olympic Committee, Lyonpo would like to see federation provide a “taste of international competition style archery” by conducting programmes to promote the game and find talents. Such programmes would feature demonstrations, participation from the youth and audience to the people from all sections and regions of the Bhutanese society.

The selection of the participants was based mainly on physical fitness. They were chosen for two categories – junior category for the under- 14 years and senior category for the above-14 years. There are eight girls from 25 trainees in the junior category and 15 girls out of 24 in the senior category.

The age limit had been announced as not being above 18 years but given fewer applicants in the senior category, a 24-year-old had to be taken in later. The youngest among the participants is nine years of age. The consent of the parents had to be sought in case of the juniors.

Kinley Wangmo, 13, is earnestly training to be an archer. She said she had come to join the training to find out whether archery was her calling. Not to mention that she is being given Nu 1,500 for a month’s training along with the other juniors. The seniors get double the amount. And the two coaches, assisted by regular senior archers, are careful of giving them what they call the ‘soft training’, which will intensify with the gradual increase in interest, so as to avoid the trainees being discouraged at the initial stages.

Both the categories are being evaluated on every activity every day in their ‘Discipline’, ‘Physical fitness’ and ‘Shooting skill’. Tshering Choden diligently marks their regularity in training attendance, their lap times, their improvement in strength, their improvement in forms, etc to gauge the development in the areas. Based on these evaluation records, from among seniors, at least 10 of them would be chosen to be professional archers.

From among the juniors, those with a good potential would be trained even when they are in school after BAF gets approval from the schools concerned for the children to attend their trainings timed during the regular school games period.

The BAF seeks 25 men and 25 women to represent the country during all times. As of now, there are four women and nine men on full-time.

Contributed by Tsewang

Source:www.bhutanobserver.com6 February 2009