Not Hollywood, but Chan aims to be a scene-stealer

ARCHERS are popular action figures in recent blockbuster films, with movie fans enthralled by the swashbuckling heroics of Legolas (Lord of the Rings), Katniss (The Hunger Games) and Hawkeye (The Avengers).

But Singapore's SEA Games-bound archers spend much of their sporting lives in stillness and silence.

During their training sessions at Queenstown Stadium, the only sound comes from the carbon-coated aluminium arrows hitting the target boards.

Otherwise, the archers themselves are models of focus, quietly setting their sights on the bull's eye and the maximum 10 points that it is worth in competition.

At the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, archery snared a surprise gold through Chan Jing Ru in the women's individual recurve - the first time in 30 years that a Singaporean had won an archery gold at the biennial Games.

For Chan - who also won a silver in the mixed team recurve with Tan Si Lie - the Myanmar triumph also came as a big surprise. This time, though, she is arriving at the Singapore SEA Games ready for all comers.

"Because I'm (more) experienced, the entire feeling is different," said the first-year biological sciences PhD student at the National University of Singapore.

"At the last Games, it was my first time doing all of these things - meeting athletes from the different countries, staying at the Games Village.

"But this will be my second time and I've been through all of that. I'm more prepared in a sense and that's a good thing, but every competition is a new event. You never know who is going to perform."

The 25-year-old, however, is concerned about perfecting her new stance, after making some changes in the past two years.

"You wouldn't see significant changes but it's the small changes that are hard to get used to. Any slight twitch of the muscle makes a lot of difference at the 70m distance," she said.

Time is working against her ahead of the June 10 competition start at the Kallang Field.

As she has laboratory sessions during most of the week, she can train only up to three days a week, and four hours per weekday session. During weekends, she trains up to seven hours each day.

Said her coach, Choi Mi Jin, a team recurve gold medallist at the 1996 Asian Championships: "She's getting better, but we still haven't got it yet.

"I just told Jing Ru, we'll do our best until the last arrow. Don't give up until the last arrow (has been shot)."

Tang Chang Poh, president of the Archery Association of Singapore, is hoping for more golds this time, with at least two coming from Chan in the individual and mixed team recurve events.

Home ground may be an advantage: The sport's biggest Games haul - two golds, one silver and one bronze - came when the Republic hosted the Games in 1983.

Said Tang: "Archery is not like table tennis or badminton. There's no opponent, it's just between the archer and the target. I believe they can be champions, if they tell themselves that."

Chan and her fellow archers have been shooting at least 200 arrows a day. It might sound like a simple task - shoot, retrieve, repeat - but concentrating on a target 70m away, or 50m for compound archers, for at least four hours is mentally exhausting.

Said Chan: "To the public, the image of archery is Legolas or the Hunger Games, but it's not as cool as it seems in the movies. A lot of times we are just shooting over and over again."

ngxtc@sph.com.sg