PETALING JAYA: Humankind has used bows and arrows for hunting and warfare since time immemorial.

Today however, archery is mainly a sport and although it does not enjoy the kind of mass appeal of football and badminton, there are those who are extremely passionate about it, like national archer, Kayalvhily.

Having joined the national team only this year, Kayal bagged the silver medal in the compound team event in the Asia Cup Stage 1 tournament in Phuket last month.

“I never expected it, especially since we were ranked last going into the tournament,” said the 23-year-old who has been an archer for the past nine years.

Having grown up in Penang, she was first introduced to the sport at fourteen years old.

“My coach, Shamani Ganesan, who is a former national archer, came to the orphanage I was living in and selected me and two others to learn the sport,” she told FMT.

Kayal’s father left the family when she was only a baby, and after her mum fell sick, she was placed in an orphanage. “I now live with my coach and she takes care of me like a sister.”

Kayal confessed that although she agreed to train for archery, she didn’t enjoy the sport initially.

“But I fell in love with it during my first tournament; all of our hard work in training paid off in the end,” she said, adding that she was also inspired by her coaches’ dedication.

Kayal is currently in the first year of her management degree at University Sains Malaysia. “I got in through a sports quota; it has always been my dream to study here.”

Apart from studying full-time, she attends training six days a week. “Every training session is three hours long, and occasionally, I go for two sessions a day,” she said, adding that she also works part-time at a fast-food restaurant in the evenings.

According to her, archery can help improve one’s academic performance. “The sport requires a lot of focus and concentration; my training definitely helps me perform better in my studies.”

Despite missing school for two months in Form Five when she participated in the Sukma Games in Sarawak – where she won a bronze medal – Kayal scored 7As in her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations.

“Even though I focussed more on training, I made it a point to always ask my friends about the lessons I missed,” she said, adding that she didn’t do as well in her examinations prior to taking up the sport.

Kayal said that one can take up archery regardless of one’s height and weight. “Everyone can pursue it; it’s just a matter of how dedicated one is to the sport.”

Needless to say, archery holds a very special place in her heart today. “Some may think that archery is boring, but once they experience the exhilaration that comes with hitting the target, they will become more motivated.”

She said she loves the sport so much that even spending hours on end under the scorching sun didn’t bother her one bit. “There are those who stopped archery because they said it made their skin darker, but it is a small sacrifice in exchange for a bigger payoff; if you want something, you’ll have to give something.”

At the moment, Kayal is training hard for the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi next month. “I am extremely grateful to my coaches, Shamini and Salina Putriana, my caretakers at the orphanage, as well as the state and national archery associations for supporting my journey in this sport.

“I want to continue to perform well, and I want to be involved with archery for as long as I can.”

Source: Free Malaysia Today