Heading to Chengdu, a modest Christian de Klerk, a South African compound archer, just wanted to surpass his 7th place finish from the Napoli 2019 FISU Games, and barely set sights on a podium place.
But he surprised himself over two days of competition to win a silver medal on Monday at the Chengdu 2021 edition of the Games.
He acknowledged that it hurts to lose by one point in the final to Indian Sangampreet Bisla, but that cannot quench his excitement at winning his biggest medal yet.
“It’s special,” the 22-year-old smiled.
“We have been preparing a long time for this event so to finally come here and even stand on the podium feels a bit unreal. I never thought I would achieve something like this.
“I attended the previous one where I finished 7th, my only goal here was to finish better than 7th but finishing second is a bit unreal. I had a chance to finish first but my opponent shot absolutely great, yeah, I am happy with my silver medal.”
In the intense and closely-contested final, de Klerk was leading by one point by the end of End 3 with a perfect score.
However he was overtaken by his opponent in End 4 after recording two 9s and one 10. This turned out to be the deciding End, with Bisla securing a perfect score.
Both players accumulated the same number of points in End 5 and Bisla was announced the winner having garnered 148 points to de Klerk’s 147.
PAST FISU GAMES MEETING
Interestingly, both archers also met in Napoli in 2019 in the second round and on that occasion the South African was victorious, winning by 148 to 143.
de Klerk would go on to reach the quarterfinals where he lost to South Korean Kim Jongho.
Chengdu 2021 was postponed twice, hence it’s been four years since Napoli 2019, the 30th edition of the FISU Games. It was a long road to get here, no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The wait was absolutely terrible, we just wanted to come and compete and enjoy Archer with our friends. Even though we compete on the field, we are friends behind the scenes.”
de Klerk’s next International competition after Napoli 2019, as registered on the World Archery website, came in 2022 at the Paris 2022 Archery World Cup Stage 3 where he ranked 33rd, then later in November 2022 he became an African champion on home soil, at the Pretoria 2022 African Archery Championships.
In April this year he participated in the Antalya 2023 Archery World Cup Stage 1 where he ranked 67th.
ARCHERY IN SOUTH AFRICA
de Klerk said Archery is quite popular in his country but more to the hunting side, however he is hoping that his performance in international competitions will inspire more people to start participating in competitions.
“The goal was to show the South Africans what can be achieved and on what level it can be done, so hopefully this inspires a few South Africans and not only South Africans but also Africans to compete in the sport of Archery to give our continent a better chance on these big stages.”
de Klerk is one of three South Africans competing in archery at Chengdu 2021.
Becoming a world champion is his biggest goal in archery.
“It would be absolutely mind blowing for me,” de Klerk said.
In the meantime though, the University of Pretoria student said it takes a lot of discipline to combine studies with life as an athlete.
“It takes a lot out of a person to study and compete. There is a lot of rules you have to set for yourself like if you go for training, you have to go for training and you are not going to think about studies and if you go to study, you go to study and not think about training, so it takes a lot of discipline but it can be done, I hope this shows to everyone that it can be done.”
Asides studying and competing, de Klerk run an archery business with his brother, who is also an archer, Quattro Archer.
“My brother does archery, my father does archery, I have been doing archery for 18 years. I did not choose archery, archery chose me. That is how it went.”
Credit: AIPS Media
Shooting a compound bow requires physical strength but, perhaps more importantly, control and mental fortitude. The process of aiming and cleanly executing while the sight pin is in the correct location is critical – and even more so in stressful conditions such as competing.
While compound bows are decidedly more accurate than other styles of bow, elite compound archers must consistently achieve near perfection.