Aiming for gold at blind world games

Published 6:00am 24 August 2023

Aiming for gold at blind world games
Words by Nick Crockford

Opera singer Janelle Colquhoun is no stranger to the world stage, but today hopes her archery - rather than music – are in perfect harmony.

Colquhoun is Australia’s only archer at the International Blind Sport Federation World Games currently underway in Birmingham (August 18-27).

The Samford Valley Target Archer is in England with Paul Fruwirth, her spotter, who will check equipment, safety and set up the sighting aid, during competition.

It is Colquhoun’s first international tournament. She goes for gold today and Friday at Birmingham University, using 17kgs of archery equipment which travelled with them.

After the World Games, she will compete in the British Archery Championships over the weekend and go straight to the airport for the long flight home on Sunday night.

“Success, for me, would be a (World Games) medal,” Colquhoun said, “I’m expecting it to be tough and competitive …. but also an incredible experience.”

The Keperra resident studied opera at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, sang at the 1988 World Expo in Brisbane and with Dame Joan Sutherland on her farewell tour of Australia.

She also spent seven years with the Frankfurt Opera in Germany, but went blind before she was 30 due to complications with diabetes.

That has not stopped her performing, but her resume did not include sport until she tried archery in the nave of a church in a small Welsh village.

“I asked if I could have a go and said I was blind,” Colquhoun recalled, “the lady (mentor) was a former Olympian and had coached blind people before.

Janelle Colquhoun practicing with spotter Paul Fruwirth.

“She said ‘yes, I’ll show you’. That was five years ago. Then I asked Samford Valley Target Archers if they could train a blind person …. and got the same answer.

“I think there are a lot of similarities between opera and archery. You need core strength, drive, must be focussed and get technique right.

“There's a lot of technique in it ... elbow position, pulling back with a straight wrist. It was slow progress (for me).”

Slow, but successful. Colquhoun has won club events and national-level titles, indoors and out, before setting her sights on major championships.

“Last year we saw the Para and Blind World Championships were in the Czech Republic this year and the world games. We could only afford one – and chose Birmingham.”

Janelle Colquhoun's archery tactile set-up.

The Australian contingent consists of 100 blind or vision impaired athletes and this is the first time that archery has figured in the games. Janelle will face ten other international archers.

Paul Fruwirth will work with her but under certain restrictions which include setting up the sighting aid by adjusting it when scoring arrows are not being shot.

The spotter may also help with the tactile sight when arrows are being collected, but cannot not adjust the sight between the whistle to start the scoring end of arrows and to collect arrows.

Once the scoring arrows have begun, the spotter may only pass on safety and timing information and the fall of each arrow.


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