Olympics 2012

Road to London: Karen Hultzer

2012-07-20 11:30
Karen Hultzer (File)

The launch of "Siyanqoba", an SAA Airbus that will fly the SA Olympic team to the Olympics in London.

Cape Town - In the 19th in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to SA archer, Karen Hultzer.

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GRAEME JOFFE: South African archer, Karen Hultzer. The Olympics now upon us. Have you got the jitters yet?
KAREN HULTZER: I have had the jitters since I heard I was going, to be quite honest. Very exciting but very nerve racking.

JOFFE: I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know a lot about archery but  never too late to learn. Am I right in saying that you only started archery at the age of 41?
HULTZER: Yes, around that time, I am 46 now, so yes, five years ago.

JOFFE: And what were you doing before that. What made you start doing archery?
HULTZER: Graeme, when I was younger I was very sporty, lots of other sports and I had several injuries through the years. So, I had to slow down a bit and then I had a climbing accident which pretty much stopped everything and being competitive, I was waiting for something. I kept driving past the range and seeing the sign saying lessons, and I thought let’s give it a go. So, I did and ja, now we are on our way to London.

JOFFE: So there you were, driving past the range, saw a sign for archery lessons, you picked up the bow and that was it. You got hooked?
HULTZER: I was hooked.

JOFFE: Wow, incredible story. What are they keys to being a good archer?
HULTZER: Graeme, I think one of the principle things is passion. It is a bit like golf, you have to repeat the same things over and over with a huge amount of concentration and focus. You stand on the field for a very long time, hours and hours in fact, doing the same thing over and over. But that is something that appeals to me as well, it is something almost meditative.

JOFFE: Your training regime then - is it day after day, just shooting arrow after arrow?
HULTZER: Yes, now since I have qualified, I have had to stop work and pretty much be on the range every day. Then a bit of aerobic gym work and a lot of visualisation as well. So yes, as many arrows as possible but each arrow has to be focussed, there is no point in plugging away madly without concentrating on each one.

JOFFE: In such a short space of time, you got to 120 in the world rankings, you won bronze at the Continental qualifier in Morocco. What are your Olympic expectations?
HULTZER: Well, we all want gold don’t we? But you know Graeme, just being there, with South African colours, just standing on that field, is a dream come true. So, anything more than that is a bonus for me. Ja, it is going to be fantastic.

JOFFE: Just curious, with travelling, what happens at customs and immigration when you arrive with your bow and arrows?
HULTZER: (laughter) No, I have never had any problems other than throwing my bow box about a bit and sometimes the customs guys get a bit curious and play with the toys sometimes. Don’t touch me on my bow!

JOFFE: (laughter)  Don’t touch me on my bow (laughter) Karen, the strong countries in archery?
HULTZER: Korea, China, a lot of the oriental countries have a different attitude to the training which has brought forth lots and lots of medals for them. Of course, now they export coaches, so the other countries are getting a bit stronger. So, just about everybody has a Korean coach, well everybody except South Africa.

JOFFE: Who is the South African archery coach? And are you based in Cape Town?
HULTZER: Graeme, I shoot from the Protea Club and sometimes out in Belville when the weather is too terrible deep south. Coaching is a bit of a problem, we do have a few good coaches but no top international coaches. So, it has been a hard battle. I have pretty much taught myself, after the first year of learning to shoot, lot of internet, and trying to assimilate that.

JOFFE: And this might be a bit ignorant but with that wind in Cape Town, do the arrows not get taken all over the place?
HULTZER: Indeed, of course when the Transvaalers come down here, we clean them up (laughter)

JOFFE: (laughter) Stop it.
HULTZER: The Western Province heavy weather (laughter) it is quite a challenge.

JOFFE: Tell us a little bit more about Karen Hultzer, where you were born, your schooling, hobbies outside of archery?
HULTZER: I was born in Cape Town, my father was a teacher and we then moved up to East London. So, I finished matric in East London and then studied in Durban, on various things. (laughter)

JOFFE: Were you a naughty girl, is that why you moved around schools?
HULTZER: Not schools, (laughter) no, I think I will just skip that question (laughter)

JOFFE: (laughter) No more questions on education.
HULTZER: I finally settled down with horticulture, started a small landscaping business which I have been running for nine years, which has had to slow down since I got obsessed with bows and arrows. And ja, what else can I tell you?

JOFFE: Any Prince Charming standing under the tree with an apple on his head?
HULTZER: (laughter) Well it took me a while to aim properly, so there are a few lying under that tree. (laughter)

JOFFE: (laughter)
HULTZER: I do have a partner at present.

JOFFE: SA archery in general, the state of SA archery. I know it is probably hard with getting sponsors etc. You guys don’t get the recognition you deserve?
HULTZER: It is a small sport and we do struggle a bit. The federation is quite strong, we are working on a whole lot of projects, as I said before, we don’t have enough coaches, so that is a primary focus at the moment. The next few years, we are aiming Rio 2016 and hopefully we are going to get more people than just one to the Olympics. It is going to be a bit lonely going across this year but Lotto has helped up out a bit and Olympic solidarity also, who send out the odd coach out to help us.

JOFFE: Karen, you have been very entertaining. Now go make good with that bow and arrow in London. Wishing you the best of luck.
HULTZER: Thanks Graeme, I am going to need all the luck I can get.

Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on www.1485.org.za. Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

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