Aiming for gold

Getting ready … finally

Our population base is small. And we lack the resources. That’s why it’s almost impossible to bring home medals in any sport from any recognized international competition.

But what if we had about 1500 sportsmen, spread across the country, all using the latest equipment, and all putting in long training hours to compete in one national tournament? If that were to happen, we would then surely achieve the best international standards at that sport.

In fact, that did happen, very recently. A record-breaking 260 teams, consisting of 1,560 archers, took part in the Yangphel Open Archery Tournament. The tournament, which was conducted in 10 different venues over 7 whole weeks, saw Jigme Norbu of Blue Poppy Tours hit an incredible 46 kareys in his 45 league rounds.

Yangphel’s archery tournament is big. But it is just one, among many tournaments and matches held continuously throughout the country.

Now, surely, that sort of enthusiasm should produce sportsmen capable of competing with the best archers any where in the world. The answer, unfortunately, is a “no”. We may produce a disproportionately large number of archers, and the may use the world’s best equipment, but we can’t compete outside the country for one simple reason: the way we play archery is different from the way the rest of the world plays it.

But that’s about to change.

The Bhutan Archery Federation, in collaboration with Yangphel Archery, is conducting a seminar on international style compound bow archery. With over 80 of our best archers undergoing the intensive training program, interest in international style archery using compound bows has been sudden and overwhelming.

Interest in the new archery format is so big that Michael Peart, the archery coach, who is an accomplished archer himself, tweeted: “Probably my best seminar ever, 100 archers, 10 days & they want to learn World Archery style compound shooting!”

The seminar will conclude with Bhutan’s first ever international style compound bow archery tournament during which our finest archers will be ranked, in accordance with international standards.

In general, we don’t have a viable population base, and we don’t have the resources, so it will be difficult to produce world-class athletes.

But in compound bow archery, international style, we do have the numbers, and they already carry the best equipment. Plus they’re being trained. And, most importantly, they are enthusiastic.

At this rate, we will produce world-class archers. And they will bring home medals from major international tournaments; they will bring glory to our national sport.

Ridiculous fun!

Our Yangphel Archery season came to a sudden end this afternoon. Team ZIMDRA played TANDIN’S POP n ALL and GADEN PHUNSUM in the last of eight quarterfinal matches. All three teams had decided that they must win to proceed to the semifinals – it would be too difficult to outdo NAMSEYCHOILNG R’s 43 kareys for the only wild card spot.

With each of the three teams winning a set each by the 12th round, the three-way contest had become interesting. And, most of the spectators predicted that the winner would be decided by a penalty shootout at the end of the 15 rounds.

Round 13: ZIMDRA have 4 points; GADEN have 1; TANDIN’s have 0

Round 14: ZIMDRA hits the first two kareys (which would give them their second set). But GADEN rises to the occasion – they cut both kareys AND hit three more to unexpectedly secure their second set.

Round 15: TANDIN’s and ZIMDRA try desperately to finish a set in the last round. Both hit kareys and end up cancelling each other.

Karey count: By the end of the game, GADEN PHUNSUM have hit 29 kareys; TANDIN’S POP n All have hit 31; and ZIMDRA have hit 35.

Result: Team GADEN, with the lowest karey count, wins!

Ridiculous? Yes. But I love the Yangphel format. I love the ups and downs, and the highs and lows. Today was a solid low.

Tomorrow is the “seeded shootout”, a contest of accuracy and nerves among Bhutan’s best. I’ll be there. Not to participate. But to join the festivities.

The semifinals begin on Sunday. Expect a lot more excitement before Yangphel hands over the keys of a brand new car to Bhutan’s best archer.

Targeting the rain

archery targetsYangphel Archery’s second knockout round began today. The 14 winning teams and 10 “joker” teams from this round will make it to the quarter finals. And the 8 winners plus one joker from the quarterfinals will play the semifinals.

The tournament began on 4th July. And during the last seven weeks 182 matches were played. But, guess what, not a single match was postponed. The weather has held up remarkably well. For the archers, that is; not our farmers who, at this time of the year, need rain.

So today, when I congratulated Tshewang Rinchen, the tournament’s secretary general, for the excellent arrangements, I added that the tournament’s success may mean too little rain for our farmers.

But Tshewang thinks otherwise. He reminded me that, though the annual Yangphel Tournament is held during the monsoons, hardly any of their matches are postponed. This, according to him, is because, around these parts, it mostly rains at night. And this, he claims, should make it possible to attract many more tourists during the so called “off season” monsoon months. Tshewang would know – he is a fulltime tourist guide at Yangphel.

Incidentally, have you ever wondered how many targets Yangphel makes for its tournament? 478 targets! I visited their workshop, located above the Memorail Chorten, and saw one craftsman patiently applying fresh canvas to rows upon rows of targets. The photo banner this week shows one such row.

Yangphel’s record

Old archers

Old archers

Yesterday, Tob Dhen Dhey accomplished what many archers considered the impossible: they shattered the 60-karey barrier by hitting 61 kareys in 15 rounds. That’s an average of 12.2 kareys per person. That’s an average of 4.07 team kareys per round. That’s impossible to beat.

Yangphel has already entered Tob Dhen Dhey’s 61 kareys in their record books. Obviously all the Tob Dhen Dhey archers performed well. In fact, no one hit less than 10 kareys! And Ata Sonam hit 17 kareys in 15 rounds. That’s one short of the record held by Forest Namgay, Gem Tshering and Karma Tenzin.

The photo in the banner shows five old friends, four of them in their eighties, enjoying our national sport. They spent the whole day today, together, in Paro’s main archery range watching an exciting game between a team from Paro and one from Thimphu. I played for Team Thimphu. And had the pleasure of shooting in Paro’s old and historic bacho for my very first time.

Yangphel’s gift

13th yangphel archery

A record 154 teams are participating in the 13th Yangphel Archery Tournament that began last Saturday. During the “league phase” of the tournament, each team will play three matches. And three teams compete against each other in match. So the stadium in Changlimithang will see a total of 154 league matches over six weeks.

This year, for the first time since Yangphel started its tournament 13 years ago, the teams that qualify for the “knockout phase” will need to win two matches in order to get to the quarterfinal stage. Till last year, one win in the knockout phase would take a team to the quarterfinals. The tournament format had to be modified to accommodate the increasing number of teams showing up at Yangphel’s.

The tournament is obviously getting bigger. And that’s partly because of the attractive prizes. This year, again, the best archer will drive away in a brand new car, sponsored by Zimdra Automobiles. And, the archers reaching the finals can expect to win expensive household appliances that have become a trademark of the Yangphel tournaments.

But, it’s not just the prizes that make Yangphel-style archery popular. It’s the format too. The shorter, quicker-paced version of our traditional sport, combined with the unpredictability of sum-zing has made Yangphel style archery popular throughout our country. And, that’s why several dzonghags already host their own Yangphel Tournaments.

Yangphel archery, by the way, was adapted from sum-zing by Yangphel’s proprietor Dasho Ugyen Rinzin. In sum-zing, a short game played while practicing archery, three archers compete against each other. In Yangphel’s version, three teams, each having five archers, shoot fifteen rounds to determine the winner. Tshewang Rinchen, a tour guide with Yangphel who is the secretary general of Yangphel Archery, tells me that Dasho Ugyen introduced the tournament to promote our national sport. And, to gift it to the people of Bhutan.

Now, with Chanlimithang seeing non-stop excitement and drama till the finals are played on 12th September, there’s a lot of gift to enjoy.