By Martin Cleary
One of the best periods in life is when we are young and our creativity is bursting with energy.
Our imaginations dart this way and that way and our minds are in constant motion.
One moment, we’re running the race of our lives for a medal we can’t grasp. Another time, we’ve scored a highlight reel goal and the replay never ends in our mind.
Durvishan Thananchayan of Kanata knows what that’s all about.
“When I was young, I pretended I was shooting imaginary arrows. I would shoot at trees and branches,” Thananchayan said, reflecting back to when he was about six years old and looking for adventure in his backyard.
He wasn’t aware of the sport of archery at the time. But he loved the idea of working with an imaginary bow and arrow and hitting his target at its epicentre.
But six years after hitting every tree branch in his backyard with his invisible arrows, Thananchayan was introduced to archery for real and he’s making a real athletic career out of his dedication to the Summer Olympic sport.
A first-year computer science student at Carleton University, Thananchayan, 19, is one of four archers named to represent Ontario at the Canada Winter Games, which start Saturday and run through March 5 throughout Prince Edward Island.
The Earl of March Secondary School graduate will shoot in the men’s individual recurve competition March 1-3 and the mixed team event March 1-2 and 4. He’ll also have two days of practice Feb. 27-28 for the indoor shooting competitions.
The Games, which are designed to showcase the next wave of Canadian high-performance athletes, will feature more than 150 events in 20 sports for 3,600 athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers.
“I was really excited and happy,” Thananchayan said about being named to Team Ontario, after placing first in a series of indoor and outdoor competitions in the past year. “I felt strong last year.
“It’s a great opportunity to represent Ontario. I hope to shoot my best and hopefully win the gold medal.”
On Archery Canada’s men’s junior recurve ranking list, Thananchayan is No. 9 in the country, but No. 4 in Ontario.
Earlier this year, he placed third in the Ontario junior indoor championships and was the provincial outdoor champion in 2022. At the 2022 Canadian outdoor championships, he was fourth in his class.
“They were my best-ever results,” he said about his competition placings for last year. “I was able to practise a lot and shoot almost every day. I stayed in the right mindset.”
From his introduction to archery, where he shot arrows with a light bow at close range onto large targets at the R.A. Centre, to developing his skills at the South Nation Archery Supply in Winchester, ON., the mental aspect of the sport has been critical for Thananchayan.
“One thing I underestimated was the mental aspect. It can perfect your shooting. If you’re not right mentally, you won’t shoot well,” he said.
Competitions can be long and require a consistent focus on the task at hand.
“It’s important not to think about the past. It’s over. You can’t change the outcome,” he added. “Moreover, you can’t live in the future. You have to stay in the present.”
Kathleen Millar, who has been president and head coach of South Nation Archery Supply for almost 40 years, also has developed the technical and shooting side of archery for Thananchayan. Her coaching philosophy is to coach the person and not the archer.
“Kathleen Millar has helped me be more stable and secure,” he said. “She has helped me hone my skills all around and increased the quality of my shooting.”
Thananchayan also has learned to stay calm on the shooting range and concentrate on using his arm strength to draw the arrow back and release it smoothly.
“My focus is to live in the present; concentrate and focus to shoot well,” he said.
Thananchayan trains five days a week and usually at the South Nation Archery Supply ranges. He’ll shoot at targets from 18 metres indoors and 70 metres outdoors. If he’s rushed for time, he’ll practise from 10 metres in the basement of his home to focus on his timing, rhythm and concentration.
“Durvishan has been extremely determined all the way through to be a better archer,” Millar said. “He has overcome a lot of obstacles, but he has worked hard and will be ready for the Games.
“When he was younger, he didn’t have the poise, but he has so much more poise now to address the psychological demands of the sport. There was a time I had to hold him back (from competitions), but when he returned he was completely in control of his performance and emotions.”
Over time, Thananchayan has grown into “an all-around great person,” and “a confident young man,” Millar added.
“He’s ready to take on the challenge of the Games,” she added.
Following the Canada Winter Games, Thananchayan will attend a training camp in Brampton, ON., with hopes of earning an invitation to the Canadian team trials for the world junior archery championships July 3-9 in Limerick, Ireland.
“We’re looking at the training camp as an important stepping stone,” Millar said. “It’s not meant to put more pressure on him. I believe he’ll do well for himself. All Durvishan can do is perform. If he does his job, he’ll do fine.”
The Canada Games individual and mixed team archery competitions run from Mar. 1-4 at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. Consult the full schedule here.
Gymnast chooses PEI over California
There is another local athlete ready to compete in a sport with both individual and team events that is on the Summer Olympic programme (the Canada Games puts some indoor summer sports into its winter games lineup to make both events similar sizes).
The Ottawa Sports Pages featured gymnast Cléante Théorêt in December shortly after she’d qualified to represent Ontario at a tour competition to California.
But the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre athlete was also part way going through the qualification process for Ontario’s Canada Games team, and she wound up earning a berth for that team too.
Though the competition dates didn’t overlap, Gymnastics Ontario asked athletes who were selected for both teams to choose one over the other, and Théorêt picked the multi-sport event in PEI over a trip to the sun.
Théorêt spends 25 hours a week working on her own gymnastics skills, but she also excels in a team environment – “a ray of sunshine” is what her coach Mélanie Major called her in the December Sports Pages story.
The Canada Games individual and team gymnastics competitions run from Feb. 20-24 at Norton Diamond Soccer Complex in Stratford, PEI. Consult the full schedule here.
Visit our Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games central webpage for more coverage on our local athletes’ journeys to the PEI 2023 Games.
Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter
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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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