SILK ROAD CUP

Anne Dohrmann en­joyed her­self in Iran

Bow International - - CON­TENTS -

For the third time, an in­ter­na­tional horse archery com­pe­ti­tion is tak­ing place here in Iran: in the desert city of Yazd 2017, in pic­turesque Shi­raz 2018 and in 2019 at the foot of the Al­borz Moun­tains near Tehran. Last year I was al­ready among the par­tic­i­pants, which changed my mind about the coun­try. Of course, I have to ad­here to the strict dress code of the women, in­clud­ing the head­scarf, but I am really look­ing for­ward to the friendly and warm Ira­ni­ans them­selves.

The most im­por­tant ba­sic re­quire­ment is a well trained horse. There are no par­tic­u­larly pre­ferred breeds be­cause the an­i­mals do not have to do any­thing ex­traor­di­nary or un­phys­i­o­log­i­cal. Only a calm mind is an ad­van­tage.

Re­gard­ing the shoot­ing tech­nique, the scene can be roughly di­vided into "Mediter­ranean" or "thumb tech­nique". The his­tor­i­cal au­then­tic­ity and the safe ar­row guid­ance on very fast horses speak in fa­vor of the thumb tech­nique, since the ar­row is placed on the right and is pressed against the bow by the wind. How­ever, the Mediter­ranean tech­nique al­lows the shooter to hold up to twelve ar­rows on the bow hand, so that the shoot­ing and shoot­ing can be ac­cel­er­ated very quickly. The bet­ter tech­nol­ogy can­not be de­ter­mined ob­jec­tively.

The rules are for­mu­lated rel­a­tively openly, the es­sen­tial ap­plies: the bow must not have any con­tact sur­face or aim­ing de­vice, and the ar­row must be shot at a gal­lop.ev­ery­thing else may be reg­u­lated by in­di­vid­ual or­ga­niz­ers, but is mainly at the dis­cre­tion of the rider.

In the morn­ing I get a first over­view of the location. The area is a little out of the way in the waste­land. In the north the Al­borz Moun­tains rise ma­jes­ti­cally, in the south­east a cloudy smog cloud sug­gests the foothills of Tehran. The com­pe­ti­tion track and the horse boxes bor­der one side of the site, there is also a small pri­vate zoo with a dis­turbingly high num­ber of lions, fur­ther­more an ar­ti­fi­cial lake, many sports fields and small bun­ga­lows, in which the three of us are ac­com­mo­dated. The com­plex is nor­mally used by mem­bers of the army for recre­ation and leisure ac­tiv­i­ties.

The par­tic­i­pants of the train­ing camp, which will fill the four days be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion, are now com­plete with the Kaza­khs and me. Around 30 ath­letes from all pro­fi­ciency lev­els have seized the op­por­tu­nity to learn from four of the best teach­ers world­wide. These train­ers are Christoph Némethy from Hun­gary, who teaches the Mediter­ranean tech­nique, Mi­hai Cozmei from Ro­ma­nia with Slavic tech­nique, fur­ther­more the thumb shooter Wo­jtek Osiecki from Poland and Ali Ghoorchian from Iran with Per­sian tech­nique.

It is the first camp of this for­mat. We learn the tips and tricks of the pro­fes­sion­als in small groups; Rhythm ex­er­cises, tricks to be able to hold more ar­rows on the bow hand, and more. But also in­di­vid­ual prob­lems are dealt with, in the group we solve spe­cific dif­fi­cul­ties of our col­leagues. This con­struc­tive, benev­o­lent in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the ath­letes cre­ates a very pleas­ant at­mos­phere in the community of mounted archers.

After the ground train­ing, we can pre­pare the horses for the first mounted train­ing. The an­i­mals

here are of­ten very young and spir­ited, only a few stal­lions are neutered. Some an­i­mals are so tense that they trem­ble ner­vously even when stand­ing and hold their heads up high with bloated nos­trils. Re­laxed group rides are un­think­able, you al­ways have to watch care­fully the move­ments of all horses in the area in order to avoid a kick in time.

We try dif­fer­ent horses one after the other on the 160 me­ter long track that ends in a right-an­gled curve. The speeds vary from 18 to 51 km / h. One day we leave the well-known area with the horses to train on the "Na­ture Track" in the moun­tains. It is a dry river bed that winds be­tween the slopes. How­ever, the train­ing char­ac­ter seems to me to be of sec­ondary im­por­tance here, in the fore­ground is the ride through the moun­tains as such.

The train­ing camp offers a wealth of knowl­edge from all as­pects of horse­back archery, and at the end my head is lit­er­ally buzzing with new knowl­edge. Two free days now fol­low un­til the ac­tual tour­na­ment be­gins. We are for­bid­den to leave the site to ex­plore the area be­cause re­cent protests have left Tehran tense. The govern­ment has shut down the In­ter­net across the coun­try; in­deed, in the en­tire ten days that I spend in Iran, we have no way to re­ceive or send in­for­ma­tion.

The weather sur­prises us with un­ex­pected cold. In the morn­ing there is a thick car­pet of fog above the floor, which lim­its our field of vi­sion to ten me­ters. We de­cide to shoot at short dis­tances. Of­ten there is snow, but it dis­ap­pears again and again dur­ing the day.

Two Ger­man team­mates have now ar­rived; over­all, the group of in­ter­na­tional rid­ers is now grow­ing steadily to around 60 from 23 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Since we have no cen­tral meet­ing spot, we of­ten meet spon­ta­neously in one of the small bun­ga­lows; lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic of our coun­tries un­til late at night, teaching each other tra­di­tional dances and sim­ply en­joy­ing the time to­gether. Some­times up to eight na­tions, from Rus­sia to Iran to South Africa, are crammed in. How­ever, for us it is ab­so­lutely ir­rel­e­vant where the in­di­vid­ual comes from, what lan­guage you speak or which re­li­gion you fol­low. The shared pas­sion for mounted archery spans all bor­ders and lays the foun­da­tion for in­ter­na­tional friend­ships.

We have the lux­ury of choos­ing horses our­selves, lots of other tour­na­ments will de­ter­mine for you. Since al­most all an­i­mals are quite spir­ited and quick, the de­ci­sion is of­ten made on the ba­sis of sym­pa­thy. As a rule, this tac­tic is sur­pris­ingly

WE FEEL VERY COM­FORT­ABLE AS FOR­EIGN­ERS IN IRAN, RE­SPECT AND TOL­ER­ANCE SHAPE THE TONE

re­li­able. Since I've spent a few days with them my­self, I al­ready know many of the horses. I hold back on the test rid­ing and rely on the or­ga­nizer's judg­ment when choos­ing my mount. I only get to know the mare "Kha­toon" shortly be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion. She is a wiry thor­ough­bred mare, I have to be brisk and coura­geous when get­ting on so that I don't get caught by their an­noy­ing kicks.

Once I have made it there, the roles have been clar­i­fied and I can en­joy an ab­so­lutely co­op­er­a­tive horse. Her tem­per­a­ment now flows completely into her move­ment. After a rocket launch, she tire­lessly flies round the track. A per­fect horse for mounted archery. I can calmly in­dulge in a steady gal­lop and fo­cus en­tirely on shoot­ing.

The com­pe­ti­tion starts on a wet and cold morn­ing at 9 a.m. How­ever, the mois­ture quickly gives way to icy sun­shine, which gives us a view of the spec­tac­u­lar snow-capped peaks of the Al­borz Moun­tains that are en­throned on the hori­zon.

As the first group pre­pares, the rest gather in the stands. Only a few ex­ter­nal view­ers came, which is cer­tainly due to the gen­er­ally very tense po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

The event will be in­ter­rupted at noon for an of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­mony. Stag­gered by na­tion, we run a round across the square and lis­ten to a wel­com­ing speech in Farsi. The flag of our coun­try is printed on a sign, which we carry in front of us. Un­for­tu­nately the Ger­man flag is printed up­side down. It is not the only and an ex­am­ple of the small, chaotic, but somehow lov­able over­sights

that horse­back archery tour­na­ments of­ten seem to ac­com­pany.

It starts with the "Korean Dou­ble Shot": 120 me­ters, a for­ward shot, a back­ward shot, time limit: 15 sec­onds. The ar­rows must be pulled out of a quiver. We have a trial run per com­pe­ti­tion and only two runs in the clas­si­fi­ca­tion. In­ter­na­tion­ally, this is a very small num­ber that hardly pro­vides a rep­re­sen­ta­tive pic­ture of the archer's per­for­mance. The as­pects of re­flex and luck also play a role here.

In the af­ter­noon we ride the "Hun­gar­ian com­pe­ti­tion", again only two runs are counted. In Europe, each rider has nine graded races in this dis­ci­pline. As many ar­rows as pos­si­ble are shot at a disc tower 90 me­ters long. For­ward, side­ways and back­ward shots are re­quired in the smooth tran­si­tion, need­ing a con­tin­u­ous body ro­ta­tion, fac­ing the tar­get. The time limit here is 18 sec­onds, slow rid­ers and fast shoot­ers get their money's worth in this dis­ci­pline.

It is very in­ter­est­ing to watch the dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pants, be­cause hardly two share a completely iden­ti­cal style. Nock and shoot­ing tech­nique, the equip­ment, the sad­dle, rid­ing style, speed, his­tor­i­cal cloth­ing, ev­ery­thing is worth a closer look and im­presses with a great va­ri­ety.

The pro­gram in­cludes the "Tabla" - or "Turk­ish com­pe­ti­tion". This is again about the speed: a for­ward shot is fol­lowed by a back­ward shot and fi­nally a long side­ways shot at a small tar­get. It is a dif­fi­cult com­pe­ti­tion. In the trial run, I'm get­ting new courage be­cause I hit all three tar­gets.

The "Pahla­van" com­pe­ti­tion, Per­sian for "ath­lete" or "hero", brings a completely dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. In ad­di­tion to bow and ar­row, we have to use a two-me­ter spear to col­lect var­i­ous rings and prick a card­board from the ground. Only the rounds in which at least two out of five in­di­vid­ual tasks are com­pleted, and the rider ar­rives at the fin­ish line with both weapons, are counted. Any­one who does not meet one of these as­pects dur­ing the first eval­u­a­tion run will also be dis­qual­i­fied for the sec­ond at­tempt.

Un­for­tu­nately, the first rider with the spear ac­ci­den­tally de­stroys one of the five sta­tions. Nev­er­the­less, the min­i­mum re­quire­ment of two tasks is not re­duced, mak­ing the com­pe­ti­tion even more dif­fi­cult than it is any­way.

My gray mare Kha­toon is very fiery that day. I need help so that I can co­or­di­nate my weapons in the sad­dle with­out my horse au­tonomously sweep­ing onto the track as if mag­ne­tized.

Un­for­tu­nately I don't get the shot with spear in hand, but at least I man­age to pierce the card­board at the end of the lane. A sec­ond round is there­fore no longer pos­si­ble for me. I bring my mare back into her box and thank her for car­ry­ing me through these wild four com­pe­ti­tions un­scathed.

In the evening a BBQ with a lot of fire is pre­pared for us. We feel very com­fort­able as for­eign­ers in Iran, re­spect and tol­er­ance shape the tone. Due to the family at­mos­phere, I never have the feel­ing that I am marginal­ized as a woman. In the of­fi­cial con­text, how­ever, there is a cool dis­tance be­tween the gen­ders. If you want to show your­self pro­gres­sive here, dare to shake hands with the par­tic­i­pants.

The last day of the "Silk Road Cup" is re­served for the top 30 rid­ers to date. You can now ride the fi­nal “In­ter­na­tional Track”, which com­bines one qabak, ie one shot up­wards, with three other sin­gle tar­gets. Hardly any­one man­ages to meet the time limit and hit all tar­gets.

The last rider dashes through the fin­ish line and sud­denly the com­pe­ti­tion on the Silk Road is over. The event it­self was as tur­bu­lent and wild as the horses. The re­turn to ev­ery­day life at home now seems like wak­ing up from a dream.

My own good horse is al­ready wait­ing there for me and the bow. To­gether we will fill the new knowl­edge with ex­pe­ri­ence. The long Ger­man win­ter will hope­fully give me enough time to train so that I can wear my head a little higher at the next in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment.

Gergely (Hun­gary) on the stal­lion Nar­mashir in the Al­borz Moun­tains

Alperen (Turkey) is wait­ing for the start sig­nal

Train­ing with Christoph Némethy. The move­ment of the arms after the shot should be min­i­mized.

"PAHLA­VAN" "TABLA"

For the back­ward shot I turn around in the sad­dle on the mare Aysan as far as pos­si­ble

"IN­TER­NA­TIONAL"

"hun­gar­ian"

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