Robin Hood, eat ya heart out

Robin Hood, eat ya heart out


Young Post editor Susan Ramsay aims for the target.
Young Post editor Susan Ramsay aims for the target.
Photos: Jonathan Wong/SCMP
The Olympic Games, the world's biggest sporting event, kicked off in London in grand style last month. Sadly not all events are on at HK-friendly times, but Young Post is looking out for you. The team has been trying out Olympic sports and we're sharing our experiences. This week: Susan Ramsay hits the bull's eye

Archery made its Olympic debut in 1900, but was dropped after the 1908 London Games. It came back in 1972 in Munich.

Archery might not be the most exciting spectator sport, but, thanks to author Suzanne Collins, and her blockbuster Hunger Games trilogy, it is definitely the most fashionable of all the Olympic games.

How hard can it be, I thought. All you have to do is make sure the pointy end of the arrow flies away from you, preferably not hitting any living creature. Hitting a target would be a bonus.

The slight problem was that Typhoon Vicente was busy hitting Hong Kong on the day I was meant to be imitating Katniss Everdeen. It seemed that before I had even started, the odds were not going to be ever in my favour.

Luckily, La Salle has an indoor range. So it was on.

La Salle's team captains Johnson Chan Jor-shing and Kenneth Yip Ching-wa were on hand to train me. There are bows, and then there are bows and then there's this professional competition bow that was so heavy I could barely lift it for more than a few seconds. All that extra shiny stuff is to ease the recoil and help the archer shoot better for longer. Honestly, though, I think the recoil would be the least of my problems if I had to use this. I wonder if anyone thought of having a bow caddy on an archery range.

Luckily, the bow I was to use was not as heavy: I was given a stripped-down version without the bling. But then there was the small matter of which eye I was going to use. I had kind of hoped to use both of them. But that was not to be the case. I had to use my dominant eye, the captains explained. Now, if anyone were to ask me which is my dominant side, I would say without hesitation that it is my right; after all, it's the hand I write with. But as it turned out after a little test, my left eye is the dominant one. So all that mental rehearsal weeks in advance, practising my stance at YP HQ, was for nought because I had to do things back to front.

The arm I had imagined holding the bow was now pulling the string and vice versa. That was all OK - I even got a nifty little strip of leather to put on my fingers to protect them from being cut by the bow string, and a plastic arm guard to protect my bow hand from being stung by the string. (As it happened, I needed an entire bow sleeve and possibly a full armour suit because more of me was stung than I ever thought possible.)

Although I had never shot a bow at anything in particular before, I had done some reading up on the issue, nerd that I am. I am particularly interested in warfare from horseback, and so I did know a fair bit about the theory of what I was supposed to be doing. Except of course I had no horse, a different bow, my target was not a yelling enemy and there was no battle. Completely different, then.

First, I received a lesson in safety. There were whistles to tell me when I could shoot, when I could go hunt for the arrows I shot, and when there was an emergency.

It wasn't long before I was letting fly and satisfyingly managed to actually get a few arrows on the board. To be honest, I was so close I shouldn't have missed, but I managed to do so with embarrassing regularity. I'm glad my life doesn't depend on hunting dinner with bow and arrow. I reckon I'd end up being pretty skinny. Despite looking really easy, there is a lot to think about archery. The arrow has a rest on the bow that it sits on before it is loosed - quite often I forgot that. It should be nocked between two little bumps on the bowstring, not wherever I felt like. Was I going to go elbow up or level? I kept on forgetting that my hand should be under my chin. And there's that pesky line that you have to step over before you start shooting. Oh yes, and I had to wait for that whistle that told me it was clear to shoot.

In archery, you hope to hit the gold centre of the target. I was there for a good few hours and I managed to get one arrow on the gold. One.

Although my hosts were extremely encouraging and polite, I have to admit that I hit that gold purely by the law of averages, i.e. if you shoot enough arrows at a target, eventually you're likely to hit gold. Still, it was a great feeling of satisfaction and I am really keen to continue.

How to find your dominant eye

1. Look around for a likely target, like a light switch.

2. Overlap your hands on top of each other, leaving a centre hole to look through.

3. Extend your arms and put the light switch at the centre of the hole.

4. Close one eye. If you can still see the light switch, that is your dominant eye.

5. Switch eyes. If you can't see the light switch, the other eye is your dominant eye.

Susan gets some pointers about using the professional bow from Kenneth Yip Ching-wa (centre) and Johnson Chan Jor-shing

Hit bull's-eyes in HK

Hong Kong Archery Centre
Address: 902, 20 Hillwood Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Telephone: 2739 8969

Hong Kong Island Archery Club
Practice range: Kei Lung Wan Service Reservoir, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong
Telephone: 9801 0830

Tuen Mun Recreation and Sports Centre (Archery Range)
Address: Lung Mun Road, Tuen Mun, New Territories
Telephone: 2466 2600

See what else we're doing this summer

- Sailing
- Equestrian
- Boxing
- Rowing
- Taekwondo
- Rhythmic gymnastics
- Trampolining
- Handball



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