For Bhutan, Rio Hopes Rest
With Karma (Literally) For Bhutan, Rio Hopes Rest With Karma (Literally)

This is Karma, from the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Karma is not her first or last name. It’s her only name. In Bhutan, people traditionally go by one name.

Consider these other amazing facts about Bhutan: It was the last nation on earth to get television. The year? 1999. It’s the only country to measure success by “Gross National Happiness.” And best of all, it’s the only country with archery as its national sport.

Karma is one of only two Bhutanese athletes going to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games. After taking two medals at the South Asian Games earlier this year, she was selected in June for her first Olympics.

HOW SHE GOT STARTED:

Though archery is Bhutan’s national sport, there are only five boys and four girls training on the national team. Photo courtesy of: Karma

Though archery is Bhutan’s national sport, there are only five boys and four girls training on the national team. Photo courtesy of: Karma

Karma didn’t pick up a bow until she was 18. “When I was in school I was very interested in sports. I used to do all of them. If I hadn’t become an archer, I would be a competitive runner, but I never tried archery (earlier).”

“Archery is our national game, but it’s mostly traditional and compound, and I feel recurve archery is unique in our country,” she said. “My coach and parents encouraged me to shoot, and I thought it felt quite interesting.”

Olympic-style recurve archery is not a big sport in Bhutan. The country has only one regulation field.

“We have only five boys and four girls training on the national team, and we have some schools teaching archers in the east of the country,” Karma said. Nevertheless, Bhutan is introducing an Olympic archery program to every school by 2020.

WHEN SHE STARTED DREAMING OF THE OLYMPICS:

I remember learning briefly about the Olympics in a class when I was in Junior High School back in my village in eastern Bhutan,” Karma said. “I started archery in April 2009. The day I started archery, I always wanted to make it to the Olympics.”

HOW SHE GOT THERE:

To earn top scores in national ranking competitions on her road to Rio, Karma has practiced nearly every day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Photo courtesy of: Karma

To earn top scores in national ranking competitions on her road to Rio, Karma has practiced nearly every day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Photo courtesy of: Karma

As usual, there’s no secret, just sheer hard work.

“To get here, I attended all of the qualification tournaments: the World Championships in Denmark, the 19th Asian Archery Championships, and the World Cup in Antalya,” Karma said. “To be eligible to participate in these competitions, I had to top the national ranking competitions just before these events. And in order to top these national ranking competitions, I have been shooting from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, almost seven days a week.”

WHO WILL SHE MAKE PROUD?

“The federation, my coach and my family have been my biggest supporters on my road toward the Olympics,” she said. “The people of my country, the Bhutanese, would be proud, especially if I do well.”

WHAT SHE’S LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT BRAZIL:

“I look forward to having a great competition and getting to know the people of Brazil and other countries,” Karma said. “I am sometimes afraid of not being able to get over the nervousness that always precedes the competitions, but I always do. While in the Sambodromo, I’m hoping to make my country proud. I have a good chance if I am able to maintain my home scores.”

WHO IS HER ARCHERY HERO?

Karma, who began shooting archery at age 18, said she began dreaming of competing in the Olympics the same day she picked up a bow. Photo courtesy of: Karma

Karma, who began shooting archery at age 18, said she began dreaming of competing in the Olympics the same day she picked up a bow. Photo courtesy of: Karma

“My archery hero is Ki Bo Bae,” she said. “I always want to shoot like her. I love the way she shoots.”

IF I COULD KEEP ONLY FIVE POSSESSIONS …

“I will choose bow, arrows, quiver, scope and finger tab. :)”

WHAT SHE’D LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE:

“I’ve considered coaching if I got the chance,” Karma said. “I would love to share my knowledge and experiences with others.”

DESCRIBE ARCHERY IN ONE WORD:

Everything.”

Watch Karma represent Bhutan at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games beginning Aug. 5. Check out NBC’s full broadcasting schedule here, then tune into the archery action to see who brings home archery gold.

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