x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Aiming for gold and bowing to no one

Archery offers adrenaline and excitement as a reward for patience and discipline.

Victor Fernandes, centre, Roger d'souza, left and Limon Miah, during their practice session at the Archery club at Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi.
Victor Fernandes, centre, Roger d'souza, left and Limon Miah, during their practice session at the Archery club at Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi.

At the archery range in Al Forsan, in Abu Dhabi, newcomers and experts lift the bow and arrow for sport and competition.

"It was exciting and there was a lot of adrenaline," said Valeri Mouton after a competition.

Before she even aimed the bow, first she had to "pad up", with a stabiliser for her arm.

"When you pad up, it gives an adventurous feel," said Ms Mouton, 34, a public relations executive.

When an archer raises the bow, steady breathing and an even heart rate are essential, but not easy.

"I naturally hold my breath, pull in and back out when I let go," Ms Mouton said. "I steadily hold my breath when I pull the bow back."

The South African likened the exercise to the film, The Hunger Games. The lead character uses a bow and arrow for hunting and the weapon is paramount to her survival.

Neil Seady, the shooting manager at Al Forsan, said because of the film, archery has received some much-needed exposure.

"That has boosted archery in the all parts of the world. I've heard people say 'I saw it in The Hunger Games and its looks cool'," he said.

In response to the demand, Mr Seady held a guns and bow competition at Al Forsan. Competitors used both weapons, and the scores were combined.

"Some of them are coming back because of the archery," he said.

Ms Mouton, who participated in the competition, said the most memorable part was the intensity.

"Your vision becomes so singular and the focus is quiet interesting. Like running, you become so focused on a tunnel vision and it can become quiet additive," she said.

After she fired the first shot, she was hooked.

"You want to keep shooting as the more shooting you do, the better your aim. I kept picking up the arrow instead of taking my time. The more rhythm I maintained, the better I was," she said.

In addition to a good eye, the key for success in archery is discipline, Mr Seady said.

"It's to do with the aiming part of it and there's a way to do it correctly.

"If you do it any way, you're not obviously going to hit it but if you do it right, the result is in the score."

Rao Berenjian of the Dubai Archers said: "It's a delicate sport, it's practical but at the same time, it is like meditation."

Participating in the archery competition at the Olympics is the pinnacle of the sport.

"Its a huge amount of training. They are shooting 90 metres in the Olympics.

" It's a real top-of-your-game type of thing. The equipment they use is extremely expensive with high-end carbon fibre bows," Mr Seady said.

This year, the South Koreans are the ones to watch.

"It has become very popular there and they have schools there. They select the talent and take them from an early age and have a very dense practice programme. They become shooting machines," Mr Berenjian said.

It is one of the few sports in the Olympics where age is not a major factor.

"Those who reach the podium are mentally and physically fit as well as have a good coach," Mr Berenjian said.

Ms Mouton said she was a convert.

"If I see it on the Olympics I will watch. It's a sport I never considered but now that I've done it it'll be interesting for me to watch. For me its an art form of sport."

eharnan@thenational.ae