Drawing the bowstring, Sherab Zam takes a deep breath. As she releases the arrow, she takes another deep breath.

Sherab Zam is a former national archer with the Bhutan Archery Federation. The 35-year-old retired in 2013 to become a coach for the federation’s grassroots archery programme in the east.

Since joining the federation in 2005, Sherab’s biggest feat came in 2012 when she was selected to participate at the London Olympics. She was the lone archer selected along with a rifle shooter to represent Bhutan at the Olympics.

As a young girl, she fancied bows and arrows. She drew her inspiration from her brothers who were into traditional archery. She would pick one of her brother’s bow and practise above her house in Damchu.

“It was not normal during those days to see a girl carrying bow and arrows,” said Sherab. “For as long as I can remember, I was always attracted in games like archery, khuru and degor.”

As a traditional archer, it was difficult for Sherab to pick up the modern form of game, the recurve archery. “Like everything else, things are always difficult in the beginning. But once you get the hang of it, you enjoy. And when you hit a few karays, your motivation and interest grow further.”

In a game that is still dominated by men, Sherab’s passion for the game got her into the national team. She specialised herself in the Olympic-style of archery for eight years and also took part in several international competitions, winning medals for the country.

Four years after retirement, Sherab is all set to make her comeback into the national competition when she takes part in the upcoming BAF (Bhutan Archery Federation) international style compound archery competition next month.

For this, the archer has been practising compound archery for the last three months. “Compound archery is new to me. It is almost like recurve archery which I’ve been practising but at the same time it is very much different in many aspects.”

Sherab said that compound archery is easier than recurve because of the use of accessories like trigger that allows steady release of the arrow, providing a better accuracy. “However, since the target is just 50 metres compared to 70 metres in recurve, the target face becomes smaller making it difficult to score high.”

The archer has also been competing against men’s team in some of the local compound archery tournaments. “Had it been in the past, it would have been considered unnatural to see a female competing against men,” she said. “But now with the change in time, people have become more open and encouraging especially when it comes to female participation in any kind of sports.”

Sherab said that the BAF international style compound archery competition has provided equal opportunities for both men and women alike to showcase their talent. “It would be very competitive as it is the men who have dominated in compound archery so far. But since this is a new format to all, I wish to perform as good as if not better than them.”

Younten Tshedup |  Kanglung