Love for the bow and arrow
By Priyangwada Perera
“Keep practising," he told her. "Until I get it right?" she said. But he corrected her. "No. Until you don't get it wrong.”
– John Flanagan, The Royal Ranger
A girl with a bow and arrow usually comes up on the small or silver screen. But it is no more a fantasy -not even in Sri Lanka. But the best thing is, stereotypes are shattered, as Rehana Tayabally excels in Archery.
Rehana was the Junior and Senior National Champion in 2017, and is in the national team of Archery and has represented Sri Lanka in various tournaments.
In 2017, she won a Silver Medal at the Indoor World Youth Cup in Thailand. At the 2018 South Asian Archery Championship held in Bangladesh, she bagged a Bronze Medal.
At the South Asian Games 2019, Nepal she won both a Silver and a Bronze Medal. At the Asian Archery Championship 2019 held in Thailand,Rehana achieved her minimum qualifying score for the Olympics.
“I got into Archery because my dad too was practicing it as a young boy. I started in 2014. I went to Ladies’ College, Colombo 7,” said Tayabally.However, Ladies’ College did not have Archery, and she could only represent her school in her last year,after she spoke to the school authorities and got the sport introduced in 2017. Till such timeshe trained on her own and competed.
Archery is now introduced to schools but still only a few have taken up the sport. Tayabally said that most of the Archers are from the Armed Forces, and her competitors are mostly from there. The Armed Forces are doing it as a professional sport.
Speaking of the sport, she said Archery is both a great recreational activity as well as a good sport to compete in. “It builds your confidence. Archery is a lot about focus,” she said. That is something essential in life. Yes, she is talking about taking aim with a physical arrow,but more or less, it is very much the same about life. “It is a mental game. Focus and concentration. But one also has to be physically fit,” she said.
Since the focus is on the mental strength, one might tend to marginalise physical fitness that is needed in such a sport. Does one have to concentrate on physical fitness a lot where Archery is concerned? we asked. “Yes, definitely.You do have to concentrate on physical fitness,” was the prompt answer. “One has to focus on the physical fitness because the game has a lot to do with technique than mere aiming. Yes, you have to be fit to be able to thrive at it. But this ‘fitness’ is different from what is expected in a sport like weight-lifting or rugby, where you have to be exercising a lot in the gymnasium or do power training and so on. But the fitness required for Archery is different. Improving stamina counts for Archery as well,” Tayabally explained.
She mentioned that Archery is also one of the oldest Olympic sports. “The other interesting fact about this sport is that there is no age limit for this. Even if you are in your 50s and 60s, you can very well take part in Archery. There are many people who even go to Olympic Games to compete when they are 60 years old,” she said.
Even though most people choose to do it as a hobby on a recreation level, for Tayabally who is in the national team, it is a competitive game. But it is hardly ever you get to see a national Archery team practicing. We questioned how and where they practice.
“Unfortunately, there is no proper place for us to practice as a team. I practice on my own without a coach. There are certain issues with the Association so we mostly do it on our own,” she said. Archery also relies a lot on proper equipment. This adds to the game’s crucial technical aspect that cannot go wrong. Rehana said she had to buy some of her equipment. “But since I am in the national team, I got some from the Government.”
Basically, an Archer needs a Riser-which is the handle of the bow - the two limbs, the string and the stabilizer system to make your bow stable so that it does not swing around when you are taking aim. Plus, the arrows and the bow, finger tab and side piece where you aimfrom. They compete as singles, doubles and mix.
Both genders take part in Archery and the national level consists of a men’s and women’s team. There are two types of Archery categorized as Compound and Recurve; the major difference being the two types of bows used. Tayabally is into Recurve Archery because it is the Olympic sport, while Compound Archery is not included yet.
Tayabally is hoping to get either a wild card entry or a direct qualification for the Olympics next year, and keeping her fingers crossed. Apart from that, she is also dreaming of finally starting work from next year, perhaps in the finance sector.She is doing her undergraduate studies (Economics and Finance) through the University of London at Royal Institute.
Her parents have been her biggest support. When she first started Archery, it was her father Mustafa Liaquat Tayabally who was her coach and inspiration. Then she trained under the national coach. She also had Michael Peart from England who helped her with the South Asian Games and Asian Archery Championships.
“Believe in yourself and you are already there,” is her inspirational quote. “You have to practice and work hard. If you believe in yourself and believe you can, you are halfway there,” said Rehana Tayabally with confidence.