LAHORE-Pakistan emerging archer and future medal hope Sarah Shahzad has stressed a need for proper practice field with qualified and dedicated coaches as the top requirement in the game.

In an interview with The Nation, Sarah said: “I have yet to make an international appearance as a Pakistani archer. I am quite optimistic about getting opportunity to participate in international competitions where I will prove my mettle and earn glory for my country. I myself have a lot of room for improvement for which I train regularly on my own. My long-term goal is to eventually participate in the Olympics and hopefully win as well.”

Sarah, who has won two gold medals in the Punjab Cup Archery Championship 2016, said: “It’s a wonderful experience to win not only one but two gold medals in my first championship here in Pakistan. It shows that all my training is paying off and I hope to use this achievement as a motivation to further improve myself as an archer.”

Sarah, a third-year student of Computer Games Technology in the University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland, said: “I want to be a games developer and want to bring high end AAA games development to Pakistan. Besides, I am a keen archer and have won two silver and one bronze medal in Scotland, awarded by the Scottish Student Sport (SSS).”

“I was always interested in archery. When I went Scotland for studies, I intentionally searched for an archery club in the city and found one. The atmosphere was very welcoming and the other archers and my seniors were my true mentors. Practice was indoors and twice a week. This was three years ago and I am still a member of that club and very regular about it,” she added.

Sarah, who herself had bought equipment from Scotland, stated: “I was fortunate enough to have my own equipment. I have seen other archers struggling with that factor. Expensive equipment is not important or even required at this point but the biggest lack of facility is a proper practice field with a qualified and dedicated coach. The archers need to be trained before they think about competitions on a national level. I highly hope that winning a gold medal internationally is possible for her. There’s too much work to be done. Having international exposure is always a good thing though.”

She said unfortunately, she was not completely satisfied with the way things were being run here. “There are uncountable things that could be improved and I believe the root cause is that most of the archers are unaware about the rules of tournaments and everything is being judged very leniently. It was so because no one is qualified enough to teach them. My biggest concern is with true implementation of rules. There are set rules for archery followed even in the smallest clubs of the world but here, these rules have been brushed off completely and no discipline is being followed while the main focus is on having more tournaments in future. This could end up, in however more, but very less skilled archers,” she added.

When asked how discipline could be improved, she said: “Archery is a spiritual sport and requires focus and concentration. The mind and body needs strength and complete balance to carry out that perfect shot. Outside distractions such as people walking on the field or other archers going to get their arrows before everyone has finished shooting distracts the player. There also shouldn't be announcements going on in the background once shooting time starts and there should definitely not be any music. The archer needs to be aware of even the slightest of body movement. All this is the discipline required once the archer is on the shooting line and even the personal emotions.”

To a query regarding the need of hiring international coach for Pakistani archers, Sarah said: “It doesn't matter if the coach is international or Pakistani but he must need to be qualified enough to train the players. If there is really not a single Pakistani coach then it will be more beneficial to have a qualified international coach. The benefits of having so would be tremendous as it would address the core issue of not having trained archers and improve the sport very quickly in Pakistan.”

She said she had seen a huge difference in the importance given to archery in the last two years in Pakistan, especially in Punjab. “This game has been gaining popularity with each passing day in Pakistan with the sincere efforts of Pakistan Archery Federation and Punjab Archery Association and I can see a bright future of thi sport in Pakistan.”

Sarah said: “If the community is aware of the sport and the facilities are provided properly, it will attract attention and bring in more players while the funding will be provided according to the amount of popularity. I believe the government and the Sports Board Punjab (SBP) are keeping an eye on that amount of popularity and will fund it accordingly. They do seem to be encouraging the sport a slot throughout the nation and motivate the current archers to keep practicing and participating.”

To a query regarding difference between Pakistan and international archers, Sarah replied: “There are too many factors. First, there are no qualified coaches for Pakistani archers so they must not be blamed for their lack of knowledge about the sport. Second is a lack of discipline. If an archer wishes to excel at this sport, rules should not be brushed aside regardless of how minor they may seem. I have seen great discipline and also respect among archers and each other’s equipment internationally. That attitude is non-existent in Pakistani archers. This is not to say that Pakistanis are not disciplined, they are just being misguided.

“I have no doubt that Pakistani players are very dedicated and hard working and I seen that with the current archers well. There is great hope for archery in Pakistan. It is unfair to compare this fresh sport with international players just yet as they have years and years of experience. It is also difficult to get hold of equipment since everything needs to be imported. There is a huge gap but hopefully that gap will close before our eyes,” she concluded.