African Championships in Pretoria set new standard for continent
The African Archery Championships were held for the first time in six years in early November.
Hosted by the South African city of Pretoria, the resurrection of the major continental event was driven by a former international archer and incumbent president of the national archery federation, Patrick Roux. He competed in the previous African Championships in 2016 – but, this time, his efforts were firmly concentrated behind the shooting line.
“It was very important to get our continent back on track in preparation for the 2023 African Championships, which will be an Olympic qualifying event,” he says.
With limited previous experience to call on, Roux started from scratch.
“It was more difficult than I expected,” he explains. “We didn’t know if we would have enough entries to make it happen.”
Pulling together an organising committee from active members of the federation and people involved with the Pretoria-based Tuks club, the crew had just four months to turn Patrick’s idea into a reality.
“We decided to organise it only in July. I didn’t know how much work it required. It’s a tremendous amount of work and coordination,” he says. “It was new and difficult for us, but I think we learnt a lot, and it makes us ready for more events in future.”
Not only did Pretoria bring a return to the calendar for the continental championships but it introduced titles for the barebow categories – and, for the very first time in Africa, all the finals were broadcast live.
“We used a local camera crew, which had earlier streamed our national championships. They had a little bit of experience and World Archery helped guide us, too,” says Roux. It wasn’t easy – but some of the clips reached 100s of 1000s of people on social media and via news transmissions.
“We probably needed more time before the event to get more sponsors and more help. There were less than 20 people in the organising committee, including volunteers. They worked really hard!”
The foundations have been laid – but there’s plenty more work to do.
“We would like to have a more commercial model for archery so that we can participate in more international events and also bring more international competitions to South Africa,” says Patrick, when asked about the future. “We just need to raise more money to do that.”
A businessman by profession, the 50-year-old brought a customer-first mentality to organising his first major tournament.
“It was my objective to have a good event for archers and get them on a finals stage set to World Archery standards. And I think you could see that because when they got there, they were super nervous,” he says. “I think it was overwhelming to some of them.”
One archer who lived up to the pressure of the big stage was another bearing the last name ‘Roux’.
As Patrick’s wife, Gerda, herself an international archer stood metres away acting as athlete marshal and Patrick himself took a 15-minute break from organising to become an on-field coach, the couple’s son, 20-year-old recurver Wian, delivered a resilient performance to claim the title of African Champion.
“We just spoke about how to win, no negative comments. He just kept telling me, ‘keep them in the middle, keep pulling and stay calm’,” said the winner, when asked how his father’s experience helped.
The experience of the finals field in Pretoria will, no doubt, help Wian when next year’s Olympic qualifiers begin.
Africa has four quota spaces for the Olympic Games reserved across two events. The winning mixed team will qualify – as well as the top two individuals at the next continental championships, which has yet to be assigned to a host.
Whoever takes the mantle as its organiser has a solid blueprint to follow, thanks to Roux and his team in South Africa.
“I’m very happy and satisfied. The team that worked on the championships learnt so much and gained so much knowledge,” concludes Patrick. “We moved forward.”