Mustafa Barodawala is an Arts teacher at Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah and a seasoned archer from the city of Surat in Gujarat, India. Having started training in 2014, he has matured in the sport and recently won a Gold and Bronze medal in the Veterans and Seniors category respectively at the 11th and 12th National Indoor Field Archery Championships. The event, organised by the Field Archery Association of India, was held at Raigad, Maharashtra, between the 24th and 27th of March, 2022. In this interview, Mustafa draws on the important lessons and highlights from his quiver of experiences.

How did you discover archery?

By chance. In 2014, the sports faculty in Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah introduced archery to its curriculum and ran a trial round for interested candidates. I remember it was the first time I had held a bow and arrow and we were told to shoot at 24 balloons.

This was followed by a training session which lasted 15-20 days. In the end, I was lucky to be chosen by the Secretary of Field Archery Registration of India, Mr Subhash, for a further training and development program. Since then, he has left a lasting impression on me and it was our continuous interaction that really grew my love for the sport. After a few months of training, it started to dawn on me that I should pursue archery long term, which led me to invest in better equipment and dedicate more hours to training.

What values does archery instil in a human being?

Archery is a multi-disciplinary sport. It is a good form of exercise that helps strengthen the muscles of the upper body through the rigours of drawing and delivering arrows. Likewise, it forces archers to become disciplined as they are required to control their shots remaining unfazed by factors such as wind, distance, noise and other competitors. Moreover, it improves hand-eye coordination, instils patience and boosts self-confidence.

Through archery I have also come to realise an important lesson of humility and respect. Despite competing against each other, archers stand shoulder to shoulder, demonstrating the solidarity and camaraderie that is a hallmark of the sport.

What is a day in training like?

In routine training sessions, I usually shoot around 60 to 80 arrows for almost an hour. Each pull of the string requires a draw force of between 30-50 pounds and the challenge is to balance, aim and shoot at the target without caving in to the strain on the arms. Additionally, when preparing for an official competition, I begin training a month prior and shoot around 300 arrows every day till the date arrives.

Has archery helped sharpen your focus in other aspects of life?

Certainly. It’s not about one thing, but rather the coming together of different aspects – from aiming to shooting and coordination to control – archery has helped me in more than one way and given me the confidence to achieve my aspirations. Especially, being a calligraphy teacher, archery has helped boost three important qualities required in my profession: precision, patience and perseverance.

What motivates you to keep practising despite your busy schedule?

Everyone needs a passion that, as the Arabic maxim goes, helps rejuvenate the spirits from time to time. Archery is my passion and it rejuvenates me in my free time. Even during the Covid-19 lockdown, I managed to maintain my training regimen and even learned pistol and rifle shooting.

Having said that, the support system provided by the Faculty of Sports at Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah has been inspirational. The availability of trainers, resources and mentors has really been the driving force behind the entire journey.

How was the feeling when you won your first gold medal?

I won my first gold in 2015, in Mumbai and it was like a dream come true. When you see all the hard work of training pay off, there is no feeling more satisfying. Ever since, I have strived to become better and give my best. The feeling of winning a medal and being awarded through the Federal Committee still makes me swell with pride and motivates me to work even harder.

After reaching a crowning moment in the National arena, do you intend to shoot for international glory?

Of course! It would be an honour and a great privilege to represent my country at the highest levels. It is a steep climb, but I am determined to scale that peak.