By Mark Etheridge
South African archers certainly shot the lights out at the recent African Championships and Africa Open competition in Luxor, Egypt.
Star of the show was undoubtedly Sandra Prinsloo, the eagle-eyed Roodepoort archer teaming up with Marco di Matteo to take silver in the recurve mixed team event at the African champs and the combination also getting gold in the same division of the Africa Open. In the first event they lost to Egypt before turning the tables in the latter.
Prinsloo also won bronze in the individual recurve division at the Africa Open. The recurve division is the form of archery contested at the Olympics.
In terms of sporting excellence there are many strings to 44-year-old Prinsloo’s bow. Earlier in her sporting career, she broke a few senior SA rowing records and was also a silver medallist in the 2006 Wushu World Cup in China (in the Sanshou category).
But there’s more, she also represented Central Gauteng at the SA kickboxing championships and despite there not being a woman in her weight category at national level, took part in an exhibition catchweight fight.
And still the sporting talent has no limits. She then shifted to mountain biking where she won several prominent competitions around the country.
Back to the archery though. She takes up the tale: ‘In January 2011 I told my husband that I had always wanted to do archery so we made contact with the West Rand Archery Club in Krugersdorp. I made quick progress and by the end of 2011 I was female South African indoor champion.’
After ending runner-up in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 SA Outdoor Target Archery Championships she was only beaten by a foreign competitor in the most recent championships. ‘This motivated me to improve my standard and in the following few months I shot an average score of 630 out of a possible 720 to qualify for Protea colours which were duly awarded to me by SASCOC . In the process I set a new African Recurve Women Outdoor Target Archery record for the “720” format ( the Olympic competition format ) of 643 points out of a possible 720. This led to my selection for the African Championships.
‘It was a very emotional moment for me when the South African national anthem was played and our national flag was slowly hoisted when we received our gold medals. My ideal is to represent South Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil so I practice very hard every day and receive great support and assistance from our national archery federation, SANAA.’
Prinsloo also paid credit to the role played by Barbara Manning, SANAA secretary and a veteran of many terms of managerial/coaching duty in the national ranks. ‘I’ll ever forget how Barbara managed us. It was magnificent. She seemed conscious of every move of every archer on the line and she calmly directed our shooting as only an extremely experienced archer and coach could do. I can’t begin to tell you how calm I was during that round.
‘Both Marco and I had shot better and better as the championships progressed.
‘One aspect which stands out among all the other great memories of this competition is the friendships made with the archery fraternity of the other countries. The officials and archers of the other countries had become our dear friends by the time we left Egypt . We treasure the memories of them when we think of them and see some of them in the photographs which we could take of some of them.’
Prinsloo’s success has given her even more motivation on her own road to Rio. ‘This competition was the international “ice breaker” for me. I know that I will now shoot better and better in international events. I trust that funding will be available to enable me to compete in the Archery World Cup series from early next year and in the World Archery Championships later in 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark. That will be the ideal way of preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games.’
For now though the challenges lie closer to home. ‘I’ll be competing in all the major outdoor archery competitions of SANAA in the coming months in Gauteng and Free State and on 1-2 November 2014 I will be at Kings Park Archery Club in Durban to compete in the Michael Shiers competition.’
Michael Shiers was a South African recurve archer who was reputedly the first person in the world who shot a score of 1200 out of a possible 1440 in the individual Recurve men’s event.