There was extraordinary news for the sport last month as the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan became the first nation in the world to institute a mandatory Olympic archery programme in every school. Kuensel reports:
All the schools in the country would initiate Olympic format archery programme with trained instructors by 2020… the long-term grassroots programme aims to build base for the Bhutanese archers in the recurve bow, the bow used in Olympics.
BAF’s General Secretary, Tsewang Rinchen, said SSIs, physical education teachers and games in-charge are being trained using a prototype of the recurve bow made from bamboo.
Since providing all the trainees with the actual bow was expensive for the federation, he said, a simplified version of the bow was made from bamboo and used for the training.
“On an average a recurve bow would cost Nu 100,000 ($1500) just for the body without any accessories,” said Tsewang Rinchen. “We have simplified and brought down the cost. We’ll further streamline the bow so that it will be easy for parents to make one for their kids.”
“We don’t have a programme promoting our own national game in schools, it’s ironic.”
Because of these limitations, he said the selection for the national team for international competitions are also done ad hoc.
“Through this programme we want to groom children from a very young age so that over the time we can produce quality archers and have a better chance against international counterparts,” added Tsewang Rinchen.
Famously, Bhutan is the only country in the world where archery is the national sport. If you haven’t already, make sure to watch the documentary The Archers Of Bhutan, which I wrote about last year. This contrasts traditional archery (albeit often with compound bows) with the Olympic career of Tshering Choden.
A recent news article shows the continuing difficulties faced by full-time Olympic athletes in the country, with just a single Olympic field available. However, Bhutanese archers managed to snag four individual bronze medals and a team silver at the 2016 South Asian Games in Shillong, India – a meet crushingly dominated by the host nation.
As well as a trip to the World Championships in Copenhagen, Bhutan sent a squad to the Shanghai World Cup last year; their recurve archer Kinley Tshering had already made quite an impression at the 2014 Asian Games, using Brady Ellison’s old bow.
I’m hoping to go to Bhutan at some point in the next few years and see if this extraordinary idea bears any fruit. As the last nation on earth to introduce television hurtles towards modernity, who knows what could happen?