“I still remember that day. It was March 9, 2015. We were having a family lunch and he asked us if he could enroll in archery instead of basketball or swimming for summer,” Ebbinghans Reaport recalls.
His son Jonathan (洪聰賢) was just 11 at the time, and the request came as a complete surprise. It turns out the boy decided to take up archery after watching an episode of the TV series “Arrow,” featuring a masked vigilante whose weapon of choice is the bow and arrow.
“He doesn’t like contact sports,” the father says. “We tried enrolling him in basketball and swimming but he is just not into athletics.”
His parents thought of getting Jonathan involved in sports because, like most kids his age, Jonathan was spending most of his time on computer games like Minecraft, Call of Duty and several other X-Box games.
When he asked to go into archery, his parents thought it was just one of those youthful whims, but Jonathan was so persistent they finally agreed to get him a bow and a set of arrows and enrolled him in basic archery training (15 one-hour sessions) in Gandiva Archery Range and Café in Pasig City.
Even now, Jonathan relates how excited he was – so excited that he took the every-other-day lessons every day. “It is nice to learn something that’s old,” he says.
He started shooting about 100 arrows on a 30-meter distance every day and gradually moved up to the 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-meter category, upgrading on the poundage (the weight of the bow when fully drawn) every time he moved up. He is currently drawing at 38 pounds and using a bow that weighs about five kilos.
With that much weight and poundage on the bow, he has to hold steady for at least two minutes, taking careful aim for a bull’s eye.
“His coach was so surprised. At his age (then 11), it was rare to see a boy shooting at a target that far – 50, 60 meters away,” the proud father shares.
Last December, less than a year after he first picked up the bow, Jonathan placed third in his first international competition – the World Indoor Archery Youth Cup in Bangkok, Thailand. Last April, he competed in the 2016 Palarong Pambansa in Albay province after qualifying as a representative of Manila City, emerging second among 32 archers during the qualifying rounds for the National Capital Region.
In the free-for-all format at the Palaro that had no age or weight categories, the young archer emerged 14th in the field of 72 athletes.
Jonathan now attends more advance training, to improve on the hold of his left arm, under Filipino coach Romnick Balmeo and Korean coach Choi Won Tae.
In the face of their son’s surprising success, the Reaport couple have funded Jonathan’s interest because there is very little government support for archery.
“We have a lot of good archers but there is not enough support. During the (Palarong Pambansa) competitions, I saw the equipment of our archers and these were not that good. The better equipment were borrowed,” Ebbinghans notes.
Archery can be an expensive sport. A basic archery set costs P60,000 and the basic training costs about P12,000. Multiply that by constant upgrades in equipment and training as one improves and moves up the competition ladder.
Meanwhile, Jonathan is fully focused on and committed to improving his skills and winning more competitions here and abroad. To get to that goal, he has to do weights and exercises at the gym, like dumbbell and abdominal exercises, to develop more muscles and improve on his strength.
“I shoot 300 arrows a day, train from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and do my weight training at the gym from 7 to 8:30 p.m.,” Jonathan describes his routine last summer.
In advance training, he adds, he aims to improve on his focus – the mental part of archery that enables one to calculate distances and wind speed while holding on to all the weight and pressure during the aim – and form, which centers on the skills needed for the drawing, stability, release and follow through aspects of shooting an arrow.
“In shooting the arrows, you spend 70 percent on focus and 30 percent on the form. If you are over excited or less excited, the shot could go bad,” Jonathan explains.
He looks up to Filipino Olympian archer Gab Moreno, grandson of the late German “Kuya Germs” Moreno, who is also training under coach Choi. At 17, Gab has already earned several medals, including a gold from the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics.
Jonathan is currently attending Grade 7 full time at Saint Jude Catholic School while he goes for the monthly evaluations from June to December, a step he needs to qualify for the next Southeast Asian Games.
He has also set his sights on the July 2016 Seoul Festa, a friendly annual archery tournament organized by the Korean Archery Association; the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the SEA Games in 2019 and the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Now that is keeping his focus on the bullseye. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, nos. 1-2 (June 21-July 4, 2016): 5.