Shooting: Air rifle shooting was first introduced in 1997 with the establishment of the Bhutan Shooting Federation (BSF) by the then trade minister, Om Pradhan. However, the popularity of the sport has been under shadowed by other popular sports in the country.

Under the spectator’s gallery at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, lies the federation’s shooting range. Without any signs or notice boards outside, many just walk by the range, unaware of it existence.

The federation’s general secretary, Gyamtsho, said that initially the federation couldn’t develop like other sports due to lack of facilities such as infrastructures, equipment and athlete turnout.

“The sport itself was a new concept for most of the Bhutanese then and many of them were not exposed to the sport,” said Gyamtsho. “Over the years the sport has gained popularity among a handful of people.”

Athletes are trained to shoot in two disciplines, air rifle and pistol.  Weighing around 5.5kg and 1.2kg respectively, shooting the guns require not only precision but also self-discipline.

The shooters are also required to wear a specific attire including shoes and gloves while shooting to minimise the effect of body movement on the gun and provide better stability.

The jacket and pants are usually made of a stiff material such as canvas, with a rough material on contact points such as the elbows and shoulders. The shoes have a firm, flat and oversized sole, which keeps the feet from moving. It is usually difficult for a shooter in this attire to move around freely.

BSF’s head coach Dorji Phurba said that wearing the attire and controlling breathing during firing are some of the fundamentals in shooting.

Dorji Phurba said that one of the most important techniques in shooting is controlling one’s breathing. As breathing causes movement of the chest and corresponding movement on the rifle and sights, proper control over breathing provides the shooter with accuracy.

“Breathing makes a lot of difference. You have to know when to inhale and exhale while shooting,” said Dorji Phurba. “Along with it, the body positioning is equally important. The legs need to be parallel to the body and pelvis a bit tilted forward to get support from the elbow.”

BSF trains some 17 shooters at the range. Apart from the regular trainings for the national shooters, the federation also trains students and public who share their interest for the sport.

Gyamtsho said that the federation will soon be shifted to Ramtokto in Thimphu where the government have approved a 17-acre land on lease to develop a shooting facility.

“Once the construction is completed, the real development in the sport will start,” he said. “The facility will not only have provisions for training of the athletes and coaches but also other shooting activities that could help in the sustainability of the federation.”

He also added that some regional competition in the country would also be organised with all the facilities in place.

So far the federation has participated in some four international competitions including the London Olympics in 2012 and in three South Asian games.

“As a member of the ISSF (International Shooting Sports Federation), we do get several international invitations but because of financial restrictions we are not able to participate in most of the competitions,” said Gyamtsho. “However, like most of the other sports in the country, shooting is also developing.”

The federation has also opened shooting clubs at two schools in Thimphu.

Younten Tshedup