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Mutiny descendents ready for the hunt

Jonathan Snell (39) is a father of two and runs a weekly community newspaper on Norfolk Island, around 1676km east of Sydney, Australia. On weekends, he and his wife Jo (33) work on their skills with the bow and arrow.

other Updated: Sep 29, 2010 00:18 IST
Nilankur Das

Jonathan Snell (39) is a father of two and runs a weekly community newspaper on Norfolk Island, around 1676km east of Sydney, Australia. On weekends, he and his wife Jo (33) work on their skills with the bow and arrow.

The inclusion of archery at the Commonwealth Games this time after a gap of 28 years, has given them perhaps the only opportunity to showcase their skills to the world. Norfolk Island is not part of the Olympic family; so, these Games are their biggest stage.

The islanders are here with a 22-member squad to take part in compound archery, squash doubles, lawn bowls and pistol shooting. Except for archery, the other disciplines are all regular events at the Games. So this is a chance of a lifetime for the Snells.

Life’s pretty laidback on the island that is now home to the descendants from the Mutiny on the HMS Bounty, back in the 18th century. Rugby, tennis, cricket and squash all play a part in bonding the 2000-odd inhabitants. Shooting and archery skills are for hunting game and bow fishing.

The Snells are not just making up the numbers here. Norfolk Island, which won its only medal, a bronze in lawn bowls, at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, in 1994, means business.

“We are a very small country,” Jonathan, a founder member of the Association of Norfolk Island Archers, told HT at the Games Village on Tuesday. “But on our day we can give the big brothers a run for their money. Our confidence comes from the fact that it is a family affair for us,” said the man who’s a descendant of one of the mutineers. “We play for fun so there’s no pressure. It’s a big plus in archery.”

Teammate Michael Graham (30) too is a descendant. Michael’s mother Lurline (63) was supposed to come here as the third member of their women’s compound team. “But she had to pull out at the last moment because something’s come up back home,” said their chief of mission Peter Arthur. “So we can’t field a women’s team. But I must say we are just blown after seeing the venues,” Arthur added.

Jonathan added: “The field where we train back home has a foot of grass and we shoot among cattle. This is something just out of the world. Our exposure to international meets is limited to the Pacific Games. This, I must say, has floored us.”

Waiting for Monday, for archery to start, the five-member squad, which also includes Rosa Ford and Bob Kemp (both in their 50s), could be one of the most aged teams here. However, steady hands and sharp vision, sharpened by years of hunting, could just give the youngsters something to watch out for.