Archery is a rare sport to be interested in, but for Rashmi Gandhi, it is a passion. The three-time gold-medal winner at state championships in Rajasthan and at the National Games in Faridabad, Kolkata and Jamshedpur, was inspired by her wins to start the Gandhi Archery Club in Mumbai with her husband. It was very successful, she was popular with her students and many of them performed very well and went on to win gold and silver medals in district championships. After leaving her old life behind in India, she settled in Kuwait with her family and now hopes to start an archery club and begin coaching students here. Mrs. Gandhi sat down with The Times Kuwait to discuss her favorite hobby.
Can you give us a brief overview of archery?
Archery is sport that requires not only a bow and arrow, but also involves a focussed mental concentration and a strong arm. In order to become good in archery, you have to shoot 100 to 200 arrows regularly. Practice is very important, the game depends on it. The more you practice the better you will become at the game.
Archery is easy to learn but it depends on equipment, and nowadays, there are new types of equipment. When I played in India, we had to make do with wooden arrows and bows. Nowadays, there are fibre bows. Archery has become more modernized from the traditional way it was played. The fibre equipment gives the archer better accuracy and more power and the ability to hit the target consistently. My favourite brand is Hoyt. It is very professional, sturdy, and offers good accuracy.
How did you get interested in it, and what excites you about archery?
I was attracted to archery in my school days, and at 14, I saw local archers practice. I just felt this calling inside me. I convinced the coach to let me try, and he gave me 5 arrows for my first attempt. Three of my arrows hit the target in the first round. He saw the potential in me and decided to train me, and that year, I won the district championship in Dungarpur, Rajasthan and later became state champion in Jaipur. At the national level, I participated in competitions four times. The national level archery is very exciting, and I still hope to be there again in the future to experience the exhilaration.
What are some of the health benefits of archery?
Archery helps your concentration, your physique and it is good for your posture. It helps improve your eyesight and with the breathing exercises, you strengthen your lungs. In the proper stance for holding a bow, you have to stand straight and pull it across your chest, which is equivalent to pulling about 20kg and this helps develop the muscles in your upper body.
When you shoot an arrow, you have to hold your breath, and release it only when it hits your target. An archer is more focused because there are many targets and he has to focus on only one. When someone joins in childhood, then he knows what he wants and can develop more interest in it to take to higher level.
Archery improves your concentration as you have to release the arrow from far distances. It increases your energy and stamina, as you required to shoot 100 practice arrows. In the competition, within 2 minutes you have to shoot three arrows, and you have to shoot 36 arrows in all.
Why do you want to teach archery to Kuwaitis and expats?
It is my passion, so I want to practice the sport often and enjoy it regularly. I want to share it and get people interested in it. When the children pick it up at an early age and enjoy it, it is more satisfying. I have trained 200 people, from small ages 8 years to 45 years. I had the Gandhi Archery Club back in Mumbai. I want expats and Kuwaitis to benefit from exercising their mind and body. Archery builds self-dependence and individual talent, and people feel proud of their own performance when they get results.
What are some problems you have faced starting an archery club in Kuwait?
I am struggling to continue my career as an archery coach here in Kuwait. There are no avenues to practice archery; it is not very popular here. We also have to get special permission as archery tools are classified as weapons, and it is also difficult to move around with the equipment, especially with the police checking making it difficult. We are eager to start an archery club in one of the schools and teach children, but the process seems difficult.
I have been getting regular inquiries from people interested in learning and practicing archery and willing to send their children for archery practice. However, there has to be some initiative from a well-connected person to set up archery club. We have to fill up the paperwork and get legal permission, so that it is accepted along the local authorities.
Do you feel archery is given enough attention as a competitive sport in India?
Archery is a huge competitive sport in India, and the Indian team has performed very well in the world championships, Olympics and at Asiads. In Jamshedpur, there is a big Tata sponsored training facility, a Sports club that trains students in archery. They pick up students of all ages and they groom them. It is good. But there are many parts of India, like North East, South and even in Maharashtra where they have dedicated sports teams.
Was it hard to get people interested?
Before, when we started in Mumbai, there was nobody but now there are colleges. Before, the sports bodies and colleges and schools didn’t have any equipment. So we supplied it and took the initiative. The sports committee was there and they said they would conduct the competition if my husband and I took the initiative. I coached the schools and we were involved in conducting the competitions. We trained our students, and soon they earned many victories and participated in national teams also.
What was your experience like coaching students for tournaments back in Mumbai?
We had Sunday morning classes for hobbyists; we had children from 8 years to 10 years, and also office going people of the 40 plus age group. People used to come to our school from faraway places as it was the only one. After the coaching they participated in tournaments and received certificates and medals. There is great scope for archery in India, and many students got admission through sports quota when they applied for Colleges.
Are you in contact with the students you trained?
I am very proud of my students who have become national level coaches in Mumbai now. I trained them to be their best and now they have increased their skill level. I keep in touch and give them advice, and I talk with them often. Now they are professional coaches and doing well and running their own coaching clubs with over 200 students, some of who have participated in national level competitions also.
What advice do you have for kids that would like to pursue the sport?
If students want to pursue archery they should start young, then their confidence will increase and they will get certificates and medals as they practice and get more experience. Age is no bar for archery practice. And people can take part individually or in a group. And I hope the Kuwait authorities decide to allow archery clubs in schools or let us work with the hotels and resorts to include archery as a hobby or recreational activity.
By Christina Pinto