The Power Of Trash Talk For Bhutanese Archers

In women's archery at the Olympics, a sole American competitor remains. Khatuna Lorig beat many competitors, including the one holding up Bhutan's archery tradition, Sherab Zam. NPR's Mike Pesca reports a Bhutanese tradition may be the reason for its ranking.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have some other Olympic news today. Khatuna Lorig, the sole remaining American competing in archery, has been eliminated. And we have a story this morning about another one of the competitors who fell by the wayside. Her name was Sherab Zam, and she springs from an archery tradition unlike any other in the world. Therein lies the story told by our own Mike Pesca.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Of the 128 archery competitors at the 2012 games, there is one athlete whose country counts archery as its national sport. For its people, archery is akin to a state fair, spring cotillion and Mardi Gras all rolled up into one with a pointy tip. The Asian nation of Bhutan is this archery epicenter - not that most other archers know a lot about Bhutan. For instance, to Khatuna Lorig...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Khatuna, nine.

(APPLAUSE)

PESCA: Bhutan is shrouded in a Himalayan mist.

KHATUNA LORIG: I know their youth start in archery. But I know it's the national sport. So...

PESCA: Pretty vague stuff. But cut Khatuna some slack. She just handily vanquished Sherab Zam, Bhutan's one archer in these Games, and now Lorig's moved on. Zam, in a way, upheld the Bhutan tradition: none of the 12 other Bhutanese archers who've been to past Olympics have ever medaled. Only one has ever won a single match. Bruce Bunting, president of the Bhutan Foundation, has a theory about Bhutan's Olympic ineffectiveness.

BRUCE BUNTING: I think it's because they enjoy the sport too much. It's such a social undertaking, and the Olympics is a different format completely.

PESCA: In Bhutan, whole villages turn out to cheer their archers and jeer the competition - viciously jeer, in fact, with 12-women squads working hard to distract rival archers and punctuating their cat-calls with...

TSHERING YANGZOM: (Foreign language spoken)

PESCA: Tshering Yangzom, a native of Bhutan, now lives in Washington. She provides an example of a typical taunt.

YANGZOM: (Foreign language spoken)

PESCA: Translation: your lips are sheltered in a black beard. In aimless flight, your shaft with drift to hit the mark not even once. Maybe if Olympic archery allowed the crowds to rip into all the competitors, only the Bhutanese will stand firm, eyes fixed, hands steady. As it is, they have only disappointment. Though actually, for the first time ever, in the 2012 games, Bhutan has an athlete in a sport other than archery. Kunzang Choden competed in the 10-meter air rifle, where she came in last. Mike Pesca, NPR News, London.

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