Kyla Touraine-Helias is from France, Jose Manuel Solera is from Spain. Together they won gold in the mixed international team archery event at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, doing not only their coaches but their foreign-language teachers proud.
The event paired up a male and female archer from different nations based on the results of a ranking round held on Friday (12 October). The 32 pairs were formed top-to-tail, meaning the top-ranked woman was matched with the bottom-ranked man, the second-ranked woman with the 31st-ranked man, and so on. Most pairs did not speak a common language. In some cases, archers were honest enough to admit they hardly knew anything about the country their teammate came from, let alone any idea how to converse about wind direction, set scores or the shot clock.
For Touraine-Helias and Solera, who beat the pairing of local favourite Agustina Sofia Giannasio and Aitthiwat Soithong (THA) 5-1 in the final, a bit of linguistic compromise helped them remain unbeaten across two days of knockout matches.
“I speak very little French, she speaks little Spanish, so we both decide maybe it is better if we just try to talk English,” Solera said. “The hardest thing was just trying to know how (Solera’s) brain works,” Touraine-Helias said. “When it was his turn, should I try to make him keen, or maybe he needs to be calm? Do I talk too much or too little? I don’t know, but it all went OK, I think.”
Bronze medallists Quinn Reddig, from Namibia, and the USA’s Trenton Cowles come from English-speaking backgrounds. Cowles, however, admitted the southern African nation was a bit beyond his frame of reference.
“What did I know about Namibia before this week? Absolutely nothing,” the 16-year-old said. “Still, we did really well together. We outperformed what we thought we would do, so we’re happy.”
The event involves each archer using a recurve bow to shoot two arrows per set at a target 60 metres away. A time limit also operates, allowing a team 80 seconds to fire its four arrows each set. With gusty, changing winds making conditions difficult, some teams lost out on scores because they allowed the clock to run out - to their regret, runners-up Giannasio and Soithong made this mistake in the first set of the final.
One interesting national match-up was the combination of DPR Korea’s Kang Jin Hwa and Carlos Daniel Vaca Cordero, of Mexico, who together reached the quarterfinals.
“She doesn’t speak English and I don’t know her language,” Vaca Cordero said. “So we worked it out that I would speak English to her coach, then her coach would speak to her, I would wait, and then her coach would come back and speak with me.”
Kang said having a Mexican teammate made the event interesting for her.
“I enjoyed this day very much,” she said. “This is a very important opportunity for me to meet a lot of high-level athletes from many different countries. Even though we lost I feel proud.”
Archery continues on Monday with eliminations in men’s and women’s recurve individual, followed by the women’s individual final on Tuesday and the men’s individual final on Wednesday.