Aim to encourage all to take up archery

The Arrow Flingers (from left) Brendon Clifford, Jason Dickson, Ewan Williams, Astra Perks,...
The Arrow Flingers (from left) Brendon Clifford, Jason Dickson, Ewan Williams, Astra Perks, Ishmael Siddy, Ardy Ayto, Dave Stone, Jody Cruickshank, Belinda McCawley and Barton McCawley enjoy their first taste of archery at the Masters Games. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Ardy Ayto is on a mission to make archery for everyone.

The Deep South Archery Club head coach was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which affects how he walks, and archery has given him endless opportunities.

The Southland man has been involved in the sport for 35 years, after the former amateur photographer was invited to give it a go by a friend one Sunday.

"Monday morning I sold all my camera gear and bought a bow — haven’t looked back," Ayto said.

He had encouraged all able-bodied, and para athletes, to take up the sport, leading to his club having a range of competitors, Ayto, who competes seated, said.

They included vision-impaired competitors, who used guides to assist them, such as Jody Cruickshank — who also played cricket — wheelchair athletes and those with learning disabilities, Ayto said.

"When I built the archery club, the idea was everybody gets invited.

"Nobody’s turned away, and that’s the important thing for me.

"What we’re finding is good news builds on good news. They’ve come to archery, made to feel welcome and then they come back and tell other people," Ayto said.

Looking to give his archers a chance to compete nationally for the first time, Ayto, and nine of his athletes, competed at the Masters Games under the moniker the Arrow Flingers in Dunedin at the weekend.

The club had a good association with Dunedin through the years and he loved the games and the chance to give his archers some exposure, he said.

"We’ve got some good archers here and we want to get involved in it.

"It’s been really good. It’s been fantastic."

The Masters Games opened doors for his athletes, and he hoped to take more of his nearly 50 club members to the South Island Masters Games later in the year.