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The month of September held great excitement for three pioneering South African archers travelling to South Korea to attend the World Horseback Archery Championships (W.H.A.C) 2016.  As the first team to represent South Africa in this prestigious competition, Deon Janse van Rensburg, Jacques van der Westhuizen and Deirdre de Lange arrived in Sokcho in South Korea with a sense of nervous anticipation.



From left to right - Jacques van der Westhuizen,
Deon Janse van Rensburg and Deirdre de Lange

 

“This is a new sport in our country. We’ve only been doing mounted archery for two years and we will be competing against archers that have practised this sport since they could walk. We are here for the experience, we want to establish international friendships between the countries represented at the competition and we want to learn as much as we can from our fellow archers.” Deirdre responded when asked about her intentions surrounding the competition.

UNESCO and the organisers of W.H.A.C. 2016 not only celebrated the 12th year of the competition’s existence, but this year it also formed part of the very first Martial Arts Mastership. This competition saw over two thousand competitors from 78 different countries competing  in more than 20 different martial arts disciplines.

From 1 – 6 September, 87 participants (12 juniors and 75 adults) from 21 countries competed in W.H.A.C. 2016. People of all ages, cultures and religions came together to take part in the glorious sport that is horseback archery.

Horseback or mounted archery developed from a form of warfare in olden days to a modern day sport and is practised all around the world. An archer rides at the gallop and has to hit a certain amount of targets in a specific period of time. Points are awarded for accuracy as well as speed, the faster the horse, the higher the score; provided a certain number of targets has been hit.

The three archers, representing the Mounted Archery Association of South Africa (MAASA), arrived at the competition grounds two days before the start of the competition, nervous but ready to start the process of horse selection. Each archer could select a maximum of three horses to try out; they then had to indicate which horse they would prefer to ride during the competition. 28 horses were available and had to be shared between 75 competitors, with a maximum of three riders per horse, which meant that there were no guarantees that an archer would be assigned the horse that he/she picked out. During these practice rides the archers weren’t allowed to shoot from the horse’s backs or ride the horses at full speed. A list was provided rating the horses as slow, medium, fast or fast-fast.  “This makes it very challenging to choose a horse, ”said Jacques, “you have no idea how fast the horse really is or how smooth it is at full speed, you just have to choose a horse that you feel comfortable with and hope that it is assigned to you.”

The competition itself presented its own challenges. Deon was assigned a different horse than what was selected; Jacques and Deirdre shared a horse rated as medium which was blind in one eye.

On top of horse selection issues, it rained for the first three days of the competition which left the track slippery and dangerous when cantering at full speed.




Deirdre de Lange riding Gaya

Despite all these challenges the SA team performed very well during the competition. Deon finished in the top 20 while Deirdre and Jacques finished in the top 50.

“I am very happy with our team’s performance” said Deon, “we shot well, we learnt a lot, we have cultured friendships with competitors from all over the world, and we’ve tried to represent our country as best we could. This has been an unforgettable experience, one we’d like to repeat again next year, hopefully as an official National team with a junior team in-tow.”

 

If you would like to be part of this exciting new sport you can contact Johan de Bruto at (MAASA president) president@mountedarcheryassociation.co.za, at or visit the website, www.mountedarcheryassociation.co.za

   
 
 
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