By Yang Siqi (17A01C) and Andrew Atang Hidajat (17S03I)
As the midday sun climbs higher in the sky, bullets of sweat trickle down the archer’s face. He stares at the bullseye intently, perfectly poised while drawing the bowstring taut, his posture stunningly symbolic of Apollo. As the clock ticks, countless arrows are being shot by rivals beside him, each of their successes contributing more to the immense pressure already felt.
Archery is a silent war. It is one where the most menacing enemy is not one’s competitors, but rather one’s own mind. One must have the required mental fortitude, and physical endurance, to survive an entire day of matches under the sun.
Such was the challenge faced by Raffles Archery, who competed with various other Junior Colleges in the A Division Archery Championships on the 21st of April this year.
Seasons are always a gruelling time for sportsmen, but they are especially so for archers. Contrary to many sports’ conventions, the entire season for Archery is condensed into one day, with the preliminary rounds, semifinals, quarterfinals and finals all conducted in succession. Archers thus have a much briefer respite, something which tests their mental and physical capabilities. In fact, to prepare for this season, many Rafflesian archers took it upon themselves to practise in external archery ranges within their free time, in a remarkable show of self-motivation and determination.
Aside from that, Raffles Archery’s main competitor, Meridian JC, boasted more experienced archers who had been through more competitions, and trained longer. In comparison, many of our archers only started competing seriously last December. Thus, it seemed initially as though they were going to be disadvantaged due to this, having had less time to train as compared to their opponents, a considerable number of whom had DSA-ed into the sport.
The rounds for archery were carried out in this manner: After sighting, a preliminary stage where archers got to shoot and adjust the sights of their bow accordingly, the match proceeded to the first and second rounds of ranking, where the top 16 of each category were determined from their individual total scores.
Seeking to boost the morale of the archers after the first ranking, Coach Ken told them to “maintain their focus while shooting” and not to “worry about their opponents”. He complimented them, saying that they were doing better than expected, even if their scores were not perfect. He reminded them of the incredible support they had from him, their teachers and their seniors — off the line where they shoot from, they had to learn to relax — and ended off the stirring talk by telling them to prepare for an arduous day ahead.
He was right. At this point, only half the battle was won. After all, championship points are only gained during the subsequent individual elimination round.
Our archers refused to let the low morale due to a lack of supporters (in past years, juniors would come down in droves) bring them down – many of them went on to fill in the spaces in the top 8 and top 4 placings, on par with their more confident competitors.
During the last segment of the finals – the team knockouts – a final challenge awaited our archers as they were required to stand side by side, one-on-one with the opposing team. Each team comprised of three archers, and they were given a time limit to shoot their arrows onto the target. At this stage, each arrow becomes more precious than the last as even the slightest edge could help one’s team bring home a more lustrous trophy. It was incredibly stressful – if an opponent let fly his arrow first, one would be pressured to do the same, especially with the time limit a constant, ticking reminder to keep one on edge.
Nevertheless, our archers kept their cool and emerged as overall champions for both the male and female categories. In the words of their captain Wang Weiduo (16S06F), though they initially wavered in their belief that they could succeed in winning the tournament, they realised that “[Their] effort will eventually pay off”. And as Coach Ken rightfully put it in his afterword, their victory was “hard fought, hard won”.
Raffles Archery’s euphoric triumph, however, was tinged with sadness – this was about to be the last year that the CCA would be competing in their season, as the CCA would be closing down at the end of this year. Vice-Captain Ong Hiok Hian (16S06K) remarked that the team was “sad that it had to be us”, but also added that “at least, we got to bring the win home.”
It is indeed fitting that the long-time efforts by the CCA have culminated in a double victory for the archers of Raffles Institution. Though it’s the end of the path for Raffles Archery, it isn’t the end for the dedicated archers. As expressed by the Head of AAS, Tang Chang Poh, in an address at the championships that “[his] door is open” to the young archers of Singapore, we know that if they are keen on pursuing the sport, they will definitely be able to do so. Mr Tang also tells them to “keep the flame burning”, evidently heartened to know that the fiery passion for archery will live on in many a young and hopeful heart.
Every end has a new beginning, and Raffles Press wishes the archers all the best in their future endeavours!
At the end of the day, sweet victory took the place of bitter sentiments, transforming the small, well-kept field into the grounds of ecstatic celebration as our archers crowded together for a picture with the golden trophy.