Archers from Gomdar, Martshala, and Orong in Samdrupjongkhar have been dominating the national-level traditional archery tournaments in the capital.
At a time when the country is witnessing a marked decline in the interest in archery among youth, these archers are the promoters of the national game.
Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) is the national governing body of traditional archery tournaments. The BIGSA allows only two seeded players in each team in any of their tournaments.
Archers from Gomdar, Martshala, and Orong said that except for the two seeded players like any other teams, they do not have any naturally- gifted players. However, these teams claim that they make use of their average talents with high team spirit.
For instance, some players hit 10 kareys in a day and hit one or two the next. Such players might not get a chance in their team because it shows a lack of consistency.
Gomdar, Martshala, and Orong teams have most players who hit four to five kareys a day on average.
Team Gomdar was the 2022 champion of the Druk Wangyel National Traditional Archery tournament held in Thimphu. Gomdar defeated team Karma Chusum, a Martshala-based team from the same dzongkhag.
In 2021, Orong Gewog defeated Duktip from Trashiyangtse in the fourth Mewang Gyalsey Traditional Archery Tournament at the Changlimithang archery range. They won two straight sets.
Orongpas in 2021 shocked some of the dominant teams such as five-time Druk Wangyel champions Buddhist Arts.
Gomdar’s vice-captain, Passang Dorji, said that of the 13 players in the competition, five were hired to strengthen their team. He said winning the national championship is not easy and a team should possess qualities such as cooperation, good and flexible players, among others. “Our team has these qualities.”
Passang Dorji said it is not only about talented players that count in winning the tournament. “Players should listen to each other and never pressurise themselves during the game. We never insist on winning.”
Passang Dorji recalled how his team in 2018 lost despite having capable archers. He formed a team called SJS with a good pool of players and competed in the Mewang Gyalsey archery tournament, but they lost in the final.
“I realised that our team lacked cooperation,” he said, adding that he changed his tactics for player selection from that day.
Passang selects average or talented players with good character and someone who maintains team spirit and can be trusted. He also said traditional archery is a popular sport in Samdrupjongkhar and there is no shortage of good archers. “And they train constantly.”
Gomdar’s captain, Kezang Dorji, said that the team Gomdar has participated in the national archery tournament four times so far. “Character of the players is essential.”
Kezang Wangchuk from Gomdar won the award for the best archer in this year’s Druk Wangyel Archery tournament.
Sangay Phuntsho, who was hired by Gomdar, said he enjoyed the games because teammates are like family members.
“Even if we are losing, our captain keeps cheering us. It boosts our confidence,” said Sangay Phuntsho. “We consult each other and work as one.”
Archers from Samdrupjongkhar said that they feel welcomed at Changlimithang archery ranges whenever they play because of the fans from their dzongkhag.