The senior girl’s team from Trashigang won the final round of the second inter-school archery tournament held at Rangjung Central School in Trashigang on December 21.

The team initially lost two straight rounds to the archers from Mongar and it was almost over for the host team. However, two off-target shots in the third round from team Mongar allowed the girls from Trashigang to remain in the gold medal match.

Team Trashigang drew at 2-2 games each taking the match to a fifth and deciding round. In an equally contested final round, team Trashigang bagged the gold.

Pema Lhadon from Jigme Sherubling CS, Trashigang, said that the match was one of the most challenging competitions. “We were expecting to win the gold but didn’t think that it would be this difficult,” the class nine student said.

Her partner, Deki Yangden from Jampeling HSS said it was the pressure that got the better of them in the first two rounds. “We managed to overcome the pressure and are happy with our performance.”

In the senior boys’ category team, Trashigang defeated Mongar to win gold. In the junior boys’ category, the team from Thimphu humbled the team from Paro and team Mongar defeated team Thimphu in three straight rounds in the junior girls’ category.

The winners in the individual category, Dorji Wangmo from Zilukha MSS and Namgay Dorji of Shaba HSS were selected for the SEISA scholarships in Japan.

A total of 93 students from 31 schools under nine dzongkhag took part in the two-day competition organised by the Bhutan Archery Federation (BAF).

Initiated in 2014 as a pilot project, the long-term grassroots programme aims to build a base for the Bhutanese archers in recurve bow, the bow used in Olympics.

Head coach of the grassroots programme in the east, Sherab Zam, said that all the schools in the nine dzongkhag have shown a positive response to the programme. “Although the majority of the participants are boys in all the dzongkhags, there are also good numbers of girls who have shown interest in the sport.”

School sports instructors (SSI) and game in-charges are trained using a prototype of the recurve bow made from bamboo.

Sherab Zam said that because it was expensive for the federation to provide actual recurve bows, a simplified version of the bow was made from bamboo.

“Unlike the traditional format, recurve archery is technical and most of the students take time to master it,” the head coach said. “In the past two years, students have improved a lot and we expect this trend to continue.”

BAF president, Ugyen Rinzin, said that the grassroots programme was initiated to produce a sustainable pool of quality archers in the country. “Since the first tournament was held last year, there has been a rapid improvement in the quality of the players,” he said. “Despite the equipment being very basic today, we have a much higher calibre of archers, especially among the junior archers. This is a good sign.”

Ugyen Rinzin said that within the limited resources, the efforts from coaches have been commendable in training students in international format of archery. “Archery is our national sport and we have the talent to compete at the highest international level in the near future,” he said.

Meanwhile, a former South Korean Olympian, Park Young Sook, who attended the tournament, said that the young archers have potential to perform at the international level provided they are properly groomed.

The multiple-gold medallist at the World Archery Championships and the Asian Games said that she would like to coach the Bhutanese national team for the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Japan. “If everything goes as planned, I would return in July next year to lead the national team.”

So far the grassroots programme has covered 150 schools in nine dzongkhags. BAF wishes to initiate the programme in all the schools across the country by 2020.

Younten Tshedup | Rangjung