Monday, January 14, 2013
Canadian Immigrant Magazine January 2013 Edition
“We were asked in Grade 7 to draw a picture of what we wanted to be. I drew an archer and my teacher told me I couldn’t be an archer, and it devastated me for a long time,” says Gonsalves.
She recounts the memory as though it happened yesterday, even though she is now 39. Born to a Barbadian mother and Antiguan father, her dad originally immigrated to Ontario in the 1960s to serve in the Canadian military. She says that’s why it was natural for her to take up a hobby such as archery.
“I come from a military family, there was always a military aspect. My grandfather was in the military, my great-grandfather was in the military,” she says.
Her family didn’t literally put a bow in her hand, but rather planted the idea in her mind when Gonsalves’ father gave her Robin Hood books to read as a child. Spending much of her youth on a boat with her father sailing along the United States, she shot her first arrow while spending time in Florida where they were docked.
“There was a guy who owned a house up on the ridge; he was friendly with people anchored in boats. He came and asked if I was bored and showed me how to use a bow and arrow. I was already hooked reading Robin Hood at that point and it was downhill from there,” says Gonsalves.
Sailing up the American east coast, the next milestone for Gonsalves was in Maryland where she was exposed to her first town community centre that offered archery as an activity. At Christmas, the people that her and her father were staying with gave Gonsalves her first bow and arrow. For the next nine months, she all but lived at the community centre, practising her craft.
“I got pretty good right away. I’m what you call an instinctual archer,” she says.
Gonsalves took a brief hiatus from her favourite sport when she returned to Florida where there was little opportunity to practise shooting. Eventually, she moved to Edmonton where she was fortunate to find archery as part of the regular physical education curriculum.
“Lots of people [in Canada] did archery when I was young, it wa
s part of society per se — scouts did it. Then it kind of went out of date,” she says. “Karate Kid came out, Bruce Lee, then martial arts took over. Everyone wanted to be Ralph Macchio.”
But her own passion for the sport didn’t wane. Now in Canada, Gonsalves even became interested in competing after seeing saw archery on TV in the Olympics. “I thought, ‘Holy crap, they do archery in other countries!’” She joined a team and travelled all over the province and was even supposed to participate at the 1994 Commonwealth games in Victoria, but the program was cancelled because there weren’t enough teams entered.
She would continue to compete until the age of 18 when she traded in her arrows for kitchen knives.
“In my world, I was good at two things — archery and cooking.”
Enrolling at the South Alberta Institute of Technology, she finished the culinary program there and apprenticed for three-and-a-half years on Vancouver Island. She worked in restaurants for several years and then transitioned into cooking for the local school district in 2003, which would actually lead Gonsalves back to her other love in life — teaching archery to students in gym class.
Then, in 2005, her life changed.
“I was riding my bike to work and a woman overtook me and pushed me onto the sidewalk. I became a human catapult,” she says. “I flipped over the car and landed on my head and shoulder in the middle of the road — I had ligament, tendon and nerve damage.”
No longer able to utilize the fine motor skills required for cooking, Gonzales returned to Barbados to contemplate the next chapter of her life. While back in her home country, she visited a neighbourhood gun club to inquire if they had any archery services.
“They said, ‘We have a guy that kind of teaches, he’s learning off of a Korean video in Korean,’ and I said ‘Wow, that really sucks,’” she laughs.
Gonsalves was at the club on a busy day when a German tour group came through. She ended up teaching the instructor how to instruct the visitors, and ended up helping the entire group. The club offered her a job shortly after. As much as she wanted to accept it, she said it wouldn’t have been possible with the high cost of living in Barbados. But that’s when she had an epiphany that teaching archery might be her true calling.
“I thought back to that teacher who said ‘You can’t make archery a job,’ and I started to wonder why I believed her,” says Gonsalves.
“My father told me you can do anything you want,” she continues. And so she made the decision to begin a career as an archery instructor, but back in Canada.
“It’s a key thing to be Canadian to me. People ask me all the time ‘Why don’t you go live in Barbados?’ and I say I can’t. You don’t have the same rights and freedoms at home as you have here in Canada. That’s why I stay here and that’s what makes me very proud to be Canadian.”
Partnering with Academie Duello — a swordplay and western martial arts school located in Vancouver — Gonsalves started an archery program at the school. She has since also launched her own mobile school called Lykopis Archery, which travels to archery ranges and schools around the province offering personalized training. Her training program embraces the history of the art through the ages, and teaches not only the physical ability, but the mental training needed to excel at shooting.
Her business has grown thanks to renewed popular interest in the sport, thanks to movies like the Hunger Games and Brave, and several TV shows that feature archery. Word of her expertise got around, and she was, in fact, approached by TV shows, like The Cult and Level Up, to serve as an archery consultant on set. Her most recent gig includes working with the wildly popular Arrow airing on the CW network.
“The stunt guys [from Arrow] came and did a private class with me. It turned out to be a four-hour class and they kind of hinted there was maybe going to be a TV show. I came back to my computer and there were a million messages, I guess they liked me,” she says, laughing.
Despite everything that’s keeping her busy, Gonsalves says she would next like to work with a new archery association that has finally formed in her native Barbados, a place that has never been known for the sport.
“I hope next time I’m home to work with them for the Summer Olympics in 2016.”