By Navodya Wijewickrama
Growing up you would have fallen in love with Robin Hood, and still continue to do so – fascinated by the ‘Hooded Man’ with the bow and arrow. You would have wondered as to how one could shoot a target or bulls-eye so accurately from distance and wanted to try it out yourself. As years pass by that desire gets lost in the to-do-list but for some the passion has lived on and they have welcomed the sport of archery into their lives.
To discuss more about the sport and its future in Sri Lanka Mirror Sports spoke to one of the pioneers of promoting archery in Sri Lanka, Sam Rajapaksa, founder of the Colombo Archery School.
“Archery was not popular in Sri Lanka and lacked proper facilities but I took up the challenge. We started in 2008 with the objective of developing and promoting the sport,” Rajapaksa said about his main intention of starting the Colombo Archery School.
Archery is a sport that dates back well before the modern day version that we have today with all sorts of high-tech equipment and different techniques of shooting and competing with other archers. Back in the day of the Roman Empire, they owed much of their military superiority to their skilled archers. Archery continued to be practiced as a sport in England by both royalty and the general public after the bow and arrow were displaced by firearms as a military weapon in the 16th century.
Rajapaksa went to the USA in 2001 to work. He was initially involved in squash but fell in love with archery and having an archery centre not far away from where he lived in New York was a great boost. After returning to Sri Lanka he became the National Champion in 2008-09 and also captained the Sri Lanka team at the 2010 SAFF Games. He also is a level 3 archery coach, which is the highest coaching rank one can achieve.
“We wanted to expand after the success we had at the beginning. When CR & FC was developing their sports centre we invested and opened the Colombo Archery School in 2011,” Rajapaksa said, describing his dream project coming true.
Currently the Colombo Archery School is one of the two internationally accredited archery centres in South Asia. But though archery has been there for a few years, the sport hasn’t taken off due to the lack of facilities and infrastructure.
“This was our main concern but with the opening of the Archery School we overcame that difficulty of facilities and infrastructure. Creating awareness of the sport was another hard task, but now we have over 300 shooters.”
“Also unlike other sports, the cost of equipment is high in Archery, so a new comer would be unwilling to invest that much money in the beginning. So we provide them with equipment and if they so wish they can buy their own equipment,” Rajapaksa said, about the initial difficulties they faced.
Future with the Sport
Archery is one of the most viewed sports in the Olympics and with every archery themed movies such as Hunger Games a new wave of shooters emerge.
“Passion is need, like any other sport. We can compete globally. Archery is not a physically demanding sport, it needs concentration and focus. If you look at Korea and India who are ranked 1 and 2 in the world, they have the same physical attributes as we have. However in order to succeed commitment is needed.”
There is room for improvement in facilities and guidance. Also an aggressive format in improving the sport is needed in Sri Lanka and as many sports in Sri Lanka the foundation from the school is important.
“Archery in schools is important for the development of the sport. Already Nalanda, S.Thomas’, St.Bridget’s, British School of Colombo and some other schools have started the sport at school level, which is a huge benefit,” Rajapaksa said, hopeful about the future of the sport in Sri Lanka with high hopes.
Speaking to some of youngest shooters, 10 year old Nayantara Perera has already shown she has potential to succeed in the international stage. She was introduced to the sport by her sister.
“I won the Silver in 2012 and Gold in 2013 in the U12 category in the Junior Nationals,” a beaming Nayantara says.
Some are introduced to a sport in a very interesting and unique way. One such person is Mehak Sangani.
“I was on my way to swimming and saw an advertisement on the road. I thought it would be cool to try out and I joined the Archery School.” Since then with the support from her coaches she won 4 medals in the 2012 Junior Nationals.
One of the first shooters to have joined the Colombo Archery School is Vishmi Ranatunga. She has come up the ranks and was placed 2nd in the 2010 Senior Nationals. Currently she has taken a break from the sport to concentrate on her studies but hopes to reconnect with Archery soon.
“Unlike any other sport archery is unique. It is a lot like meditation. I find it calming and after a bad day I’d want to shoot a few arrows to calm myself down.”
In a country where sports has a large following and where sporting heros are the biggest influences, archery, demanding more mental attrition than physical prowess, promises to be a sport that could put Sri Lanka on the map, and one that develops better character amongst those who play it, even if not world champions.
The Colombo Archery School can be contacted on its hotline 0773 752000, by visiting www.archery.lk or their Facebook page – Colombo Archery School.