JUST A BALL GAME? introduce our latest PATRON addition, KAREN HULTZER.
Hi folks here is a Q & A with World Outgames 2013 Gold Medal Winning South African Archer, and our new patron Karen Hultzer.
Have you had an interest from an early age?
No not at all. There is not enough adrenalin in it for me to have been interested at an earlier age. I was a bit of a hell raiser and standing in one place in a field for hours and hours would not have appealed to me
Well it was one of the few sports I can do and with my back injury and still be competitive ie Archery can be enjoyed by virtually anyone regardless of physical ability.
How much does it cost for equipment?
Well how long is a piece of string? It’s a bit like buying a car. It just depends on what you want to do with it. .
Entry level basic kit can cost about R2000 (£125)and a top competition kit R40 000 (£2,450) depending what bits and bobs you add on.
Competitions etc. are they regular where you come from, do you have to travel?
We have an outdoor competition once a month in summer and the odd one in winter,but Cape Town is notorious for the wind , so if I am needing a decent score I need to travel up country (+- 1500km), where the wind is not a factor, for tournament.
Is it mainly outdoor archery you play?
I prefer shooting outdoors generally, so luckily we can shoot outdoors all year round in SA, I tend to train indoors in the winter when it gets too wet outside
What's the difference from playing indoor?
In South Africa indoor competitions tend to be limited to 18m whereas outdoors women shoot up to 70m and the men go back to a maximum of 90m. And the lack of wind and rain indoors is of course an attraction.
Q.Is it true you were a late starter in life to the sport? We think you were the oldest competitor in the Archery competition in London 2012, do you see yourself as an inspiration to others, that it’s never too late to do something you have gift for, or can work hard at if you have an interest in?
Yes. I picked up my first bow in the middle of 2007 and at the age of 47 I was 30 years older than the youngest archer at the 2012 Olympics. I do believe that amazing things are possible if you put your mind to it. I remember being completely bewildered at a reaction from a friend, I hadn’t seen in a while, when in 2010 I told her I had started archery and I was hoping to go to the Olympics. She laughed in my face thinking I was joking. What hit me was that not everyone thinks like me. I truly believed it was possible and even if everyone else thought it was ridiculous, I was going to give it a go. Nothing tried nothing gained. Who cares what they think
Q. What is it that excites you about archery?
I think it’s the tranquility of it. If you get it right there is moment in time where it is just you, and where the arrow falls is of no consequence, only the process of shooting it.
Q. How much do you train, day/week?
If I am building up to a big tournament I try to shoot at least 5 days a week for up to 4hrs a day if possible. This has to trickle down to 2-3times a week for the rest of the time due to work commitments.
Q. Do you have a professional career outside of Archery still? If not what was your full time occupation be fore this? Did you have to take a big step to change your life to be more competitive when you started winning things?
I am a Horticulturist by training and run a small landscaping business that I started 12 years ago.To enable me to get my archery up to international standards. Considering we are competing against archers that are paid to shoot for 10years under the top coaches in the world, I had to cut back my working hours quite radically which had obvious impact on my income and my workers income.
Q. How do you fund your competition work appearances etc, we have seen many less popular sports here in UK having there funding cut or taken away altogether since Olympics, is there funding locally/ nationally for someone like yourself as an elite athlete, or do you have to search for funds or fund yourself?
The Lotto has helped my federation to get teams to international shoots every year, but these funds do not cover income loss while training and while away. This also is not enough against countries that can catch a train once a month to shoot in another country. Africa is far away from everywhere. This certainly limits the number of archers that are able to train up to a standard that is competitive internationally. Sponsorships are non-existent. I personally am lucky that I own my own business so to a certain degree can shift my work load to accommodate my shooting. And my partner, family and friends helped keep me afloat in the 2 years leading up to London, as I could not survive on the two day working week I was reduced to.
Q. A big well done as we understand you earlier this year were crowned as a national archery champion again making a record 6 in a row. How does this feel?
Thanks! Yes 6 national titles in 6 years of shooting is something I am quite proud of.
Q. If you stay injury free will we see you compete in RIO 2016?
I am certainly tempted by the idea. Quite a challenge, which is something I thrive on. I will be 51 J and even if I don’t make it will be fun trying
Q You seem to have had a couple of injuries/accidents in your life and got through these, are you naturally a strong willed person?
I guess that must be true although it never feels like it at the time. There is a goal, you decide what realistically needs to be done to attain it and you go for it. There is always a way around a problem, you just have to keep at it till the path opens up.
Q. what sort of qualities do you think make a good archer? we see you have to have strength, concentration, discipline, mental strength, control and be injury free, any other qualities?
I think patience…..lots of patience, and maybe a sense of humor. That has always helped me through as well.
Q. Is archery something a young person could take up and enjoy and become very good at?
Absolutely! I would say from the age of 8-80years. But some of the benefits of archery are that children that would not necessarily be drawn to the traditional sports like rugby, cricket or soccer can excel at archery, which builds their confidence. Another spin off is that archery seems to help build skills like concentration and discipline which in turn leads to an improvement in school grades.
Q. Do you still coach others?
Yes I am coaching privately. From this I get immense pleasure,
and recently started a test run for Recurve archery at one of the schools in Cape Town. Getting archery into the schools is critical for the survival of the sport and I’m hoping my input can help with this.
Q. Do you see yourself as someone who can inspire a younger generation and make this sport more accessible?
I do believe that archery is a fantastic sport and certainly hope that my passion for it can be of use to others, especially women
Q. What was your experience of London as a city, and the UK crowds, was it your first time here?
I have been to London before, but this was something quite different. It was amazing and the most notable were the volunteers. They made it happen and they made it happen well. I felt so welcome and so safe, it was incredible!
Q. What of the experience of playing in an iconic stadium in Lords? I have been there for the cricket, it’s a great place if you love a sporting environment even if you don't care for cricket hope the feeling of sporting history there inspired you on.
All the sacrifice was worth it, just to stand on that lawn. I’m not sure if you saw my shoot out, but I was smiling from ear to ear even though I got eliminated. The smile says it all. It was a moment in time…
Q. What other sports have you played in younger days?
Well where do I start…….?
At the age of 5 I was crewing for my dad on his on weekends, and following him around the hockey field with a sawed off hockey stick bigger than me during the week while he coached his school team.
I went on to try most sports, but limited myself competitively to hockey, squash, sailing and softball. All of which I played at a provincial level. I also did show jumping, cycling and canoeing just for fun.
Q. Do you still play any other sports/ or watch at events?
Not really. My injuries limit me and archery has consumed my life somewhat but I quite like watching the odd game of cricket
Q. How do you chill? Do you read / travel /bake or like listening music?
Well I am a wood sculptor and if I do have the time it is one of my favorite things to do. Second to that I am embarrassed to say that I am a bit of an Xbox addict and can get trapped in a game a little longer than I should in the name of “Chilling out”
Q. Can we ask why you decided it was the right time to be 'out' publicly at the Olympics please? Thank you for doing so.
Well technically I was never really in the closet. The issue of my sexuality had not been on my agenda at all. But when asked about it I saw no point in avoiding the truth that yes I am a lesbian.
My focus however was on shooting arrows at the biggest competition in the world and felt that the media hype was not something I needed so told them that I would chat about it after I was finished shooting.Which I did.
I did this for several reasons:
I felt that 22 out homosexual Olympians (most after their sporting careers were over) was a statistic that reflected a sad state of affairs in the world and best we start changing that.
I feel that hate crimes go on because, as the saying goes “Good people stand back, and say nothing” This gives the haters the false impression that their behavior is acceptable. Not!!
As a South African I cannot turn my back on the atrocities happening and the war being waged on black lesbian’s day in and day out while I as a privileged white South African can freely walk in the streets holding hands with my lover.If me speaking out helps in anyway then it is worth it.
Q. How much freedom do you have personally around your sexual orientation from family and friends, we hope you have their full acceptance and support?
Absolutely! I am in a lucky position to have fabulous family and friends who are fully supportive of me in all I do (although they do shake their heads in despair sometimes when I tell them my crazy plans sometimes…..like go to the Olympics) That said I think possibly my mom would prefer if I had chosen a simpler path, purely because it would have been easier for me.
Q. What about in your sport, do you feel accepted?
Hmmmm….a difficult one. On a one to one level there is apparent “total acceptance”, but I am aware of an underlying bigotry in the structures. There were rumors of secret meetings about my “coming out” in London, and there has been not one word of congratulations sent my way for my achievements at the World Outgames in Belgium this year. Quite hurtful really considering the positive publicity I have brought to the sport here in SA.
Q. Many LGBT people don't want special treatment or that horrid word to be tolerated, they just want respect, first of all for being a human being, have things been easy or shall we say comfortable for you since you acknowledged yourself who you are, or have there been times you struggled, or had hang ups about who you really are?
Another hard one to answer, of course I have had hang ups. More about my weight actually than my sexuality, but yes I really struggled with peoples tainted impression of me. I would go out of my way to try please everyone, and not offend people I suspected did not approve of same sex relationships, until I realized that actually I was offended by their fear riddled hateful attitude. That is was not my job to help them feel better about their bigotry and in fact hiding was just making things worse for everyone. This was a critical shift and it got easier after that. I find that bullies and bigots tend, for the most, to be cowards and if you are quite open and unashamed about who you are they keep their drivel to themselves.This spoken of course as a white South African, protected by a very progressive constitution. I know that black South African LGBT people live a very different reality
Q. How important do you think an organisation like JBG? ( although very basic as we are unfunded) is to an LGBT community, in that we raise awareness around LGBT issues and inclusion, and challenge homophobia and gender identity, build on gay/straight alliance?
I think critical. Having just attended the World OutGames Human rights conference in Belgium, I was made uncomfortably aware of my own privilege and it is even more apparent that where one can make a statement, one must. I think we (the average Joe Soap) live in a bit of a bubble in our own worlds and forget that people are dying all around the world not just for their actions but also for just looking gay, and that kids commit suicide because of ignorance and fear. Even if JBG? made one statement that was read by one person (suicidal teenager or murderous hater) that changed their mind, that is worth it.
Q. How important do you think it is that young LGBT people have visible role models to aspire too?
I’m not sure about aspiring to, but certainly to see that actually going out there with no fear can be done and the consequences are not so terrible and for youngsters to see that happening will always help. Will always give them courage to step out and live the life they want to.
Q. Who are your heroes/ role models in life in general, and from a sporting arena?
Many and varied. On the sporting arena it would be icons like Billy-Jean King and Martina Navratilova but often heroes are ones that have everything to lose but still standup. It can be a kid in the school ground that doesn’t walk away in silence when a bully is tormenting someone. Or it can be a guy walking down the road in Soweto, South Africa in a dress because he wants to. The black lesbian who walks into a South African police station filled with sexist, homophobic officers and demands that they open a case against her assailants. That is bravery and it inspires me. m me want to strive harder
Thank you Karen for this amazing interview.- Team JBG?