On April 8, 2007, when Andrea Khan went into premature labour, doctors told her and her husband Riaz, only one of their twin daughters, Mariah, would survive. They said Mayah, who was so small she had to be held on a pillow, would not make it.
But she survived and the sisters, who their mother calls, “my two little miracles”, have had an incredible journey in archery, academics and in charity.
The 11-year olds are topping archery competitions, ranking first and second in most of them, after learning the sport about one year ago. Mariah, the taller of the twins, was on vacation in Houston, Texas in August 2017 with her family when she saw a bow and expressed a desire to learn the sport. Her mother searched the internet for a local school and found the Southern Bowtech Archery Club at Reform, Gasparillo.
Mariah started training with Bowtech and in a matter of months began competing and represented TT at the Caribbean Development Championship in the Dominican Republic. The youngest among competitors from 10 countries, Mariah won a silver medal in the ranking category and gold in the elimination and mixed-team categories.
Her winning streak continued in the Indoor Championship at the Chaguanas Indoor Arena where she again struck gold in the ranking and elimination rounds and set a new national record of 5.79, shooting at a distance of 18 metres. Two weeks ago, she broke her own record, now set at 5.99, at the Tucker Valley competition, and once more ranked first in the Benjamin recurve (female) category.
Mariah’s goal is to compete in the Pan American Games and the Youth Olympics. Competitors must be 15 and older, so she has four more years to perfect her skills. Mariah’s prowess as an archer inspired Mayah to take up the sport.
“When I saw my sister shooting I wanted to do it as well. She was my inspiration. I started in September 2017 and from then, with her help, I have accomplished many goals in these tournaments. So far, we are entering competitions together, with quite interesting results,” Mayah said.
Mayah is ranked second and third and hopes to one day beat Mariah.
But archery is not the only passion the Princes Town twins share. The sisters are involved in swimming, painting, cooking, music, as vocalists and choir members. While their passion is gospel music, they have entered school calypso competitions. The two play the keyboard and piano, while Mayah also plays the tenor pan.
Past students of the Debra Jean-Baptiste Oratory Foundation, Mayah, who writes poetry, placed first in the Caribbean Day Poetry competition while Mariah placed first in the costume category. Mayah also won the recitation category in the June 8 Presbyfest and will enter the San Fernando Arts Festival later this year. The girls recently participated in an art competition organised by the Water and Sewage Authority. While they were not among the top three winners, their pieces were selected for use in the authority’s calendar.
The sisters attend Grant Memorial Presbyterian Primary School, are in the same class and will write the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam next year. They are managing training, schoolwork, SEA lessons and recreation to pass for their first choice Naparima Girls’ High School.
They have already mapped out careers in medicine. Mariah wants to be a paediatrician while Mayah’s ambition is to be a pathogenic dermatologist. “I love dealing with the skin. I want to find cures for skin diseases and allergies,” Mayah said.
Andrea, a school teacher, said they were born on Easter Sunday at 34 weeks. “It was a real critical time, they told me Mayah would not survive. But God proved himself to be faithful and the journey has been really remarkable.”
The sisters also credit their talents to God, saying they never do anything without praying. They read their Bible and hold fast to the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
“When Mariah was about age seven, instead of receiving gifts, she chose to host a party for children in need and her dad and I supported that vision. Her dad bought a Santa suit, we got names of children, purchased gifts for them provided eats and drinks, and on that day everybody from the community came out,”Andrea recalled.
She said charity is a fundamental part of their upbringing.