Unlike in 2016, traditional archers from home returned with two gold and a silver medal from the historical World Archery Championship 2018 held in Gyula, Hungary last week.
Securing 271 points, debutant Yonten Phuntsho, 29, topped the Historical Bow from natural materials category under long distance shooting to win his first international gold.
He was among the top four archers in the country as per the preliminary ranking done by Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA).
The category had five different targets placed at 40,60,80,100 and 120 metres. An archer had to shoot seven arrows to each target from the lowest metre target to the highest and vice versa.
“The competition was tough and I did not expect to win. I was not aware that I performed well even after the shooting was completed. Towards the end of final competition day, officials told us that some of us had won medals,” said Yonten Phuntsho.
Of the five archers that took part in the championship, Yonten Phuntsho and Damcho Wangdi won a gold each and Karma won a silver medal. Ugyen Dorji and Tshewang Namgyal stood fourth and fifth winning a certificate each.
Heading into the championship without any expectation was another gold medalist Damchoe Dorji.
“On the first day of the championship, we were into shooting not knowing the rules of competition. This hampered our performance in short distance shooting. However, we performed well in long distance shooting. A practice before the competition could have fetched even better results,” said Damchoe Dorji.
Silver medalist Karma said it was a lifetime experience for him. “I did not expect anything from the competition. I feel that the silver was a blessing for me. I am very happy for the win,” he said.
Yonten Phuntsho said participating in the championship helped him gain experience and exposure. “We were not sure about bringing home medals. However, I am now confident that I can bring more medals from such competitions in future.”
Damchoe Dorji said that his chance to participate in such championships in future was slim. “The experienced and excellent archers should be sent in future to bring home good results,” he said
For this group of archers who took part in the championship, winning medals from international competition would be their first and final opportunity.
The archers said that BIGSA rules and regulations don’t allow the same players to take part in international competitions again despite their performance.
BIGSA selects top ten seeded players to take part in international competitions based on their performance in national archery tournaments organised by the association. At least 30 teams take part in each tournament annually.
“To bring home more medals from international platforms, it would be right for the association to send the best and experienced players than returning home empty-handed,” said Yonten Phuntsho.
An official from BIGSA Tshewang Namgyal said the archers who took part in international championships would not be given an opportunity to participate again in future. “Such opportunity to represent the country at world championship is given to the best archers as incentives. We have many seeded players and we want to give the opportunity to all,” he said.
It was the first time that an indigenous sport bagged medals from international competition.
The archers from home took part in a similar world championship in 2016 in South Korea.
He said traditional archery became competitive over the years. “We expect the game to become more popular and competitive with association providing the best archers to take part in international competition,” the official said.
The association is in the process of proposing for a sports excellence award given by Bhutan Olympic Committee to recognise athletes’ performance at international competitions.