I just had the honour of representing GB at the European Archery 3D Championships in Italy.
For my first selection, my objectives were simple: gain experience and learn on a bigger stage, understand where I benchmarked and most importantly, enjoy it. I’ll start with the easy one – I LOVED every minute of it (except perhaps for the 5 am email informing me my flight home had been cancelled, but that’s a story for another time!).
A big part of that is thanks to proper prep, the top notch event organisation and a great Team Manager, which combined meant I could focus on shooting and nothing else.
Before the trip, I spent many hours with the kind help of fellow Kent archer Chris Horan, selecting and tuning my equipment and getting a spare bow set up. It’s key going out knowing your kit is as good as it can be and that you have a plan B should anything not go according to plan. As it turns out I didn’t need any of my spare kit, but knowing it was there and working well, gave me the peace of mind to focus on my shooting. And really that’s all it’s about, doing what you’ve done all year and replicating it on the big day.
And we’re off
I travelled to the event with my teammate Ian. We were met at the airport by one of the many volunteers and escorted to our waiting bus. Transport was sleek, organised by the local organisation committee with the help of the local police force.
Upon arrival we were met by Team Manager Mal Williams, and we then joined our teammates for dinner. Mal gave us a debrief on the schedule, what to expect and where to be and when. On an international trip, you will spend the majority of your time with your team. There are other teams in the same hotel, but you will eat, travel and practice predominantly with the same group of people all week. Your team becomes like a second family.
Official practice and equipment inspection
Day 1 was orientation for Ian, Jed and myself who travelled specifically for the 3Ds. The rest of the team (Mal, Vic, Tom, James and Ollie) also shot the WA field the previous week and already had their accreditations and knew what to expect. Our gazebo for the week was set up between France and Germany, we said our hellos and chatted about kit – and exchanged pin badges. Pin badges are a big thing in 3D. Everyone brings some to swap with their groups and give to the volunteers. It’s not uncommon to see volunteers and archers racing around to try and catch badges from (think Pokemon Go!).
After a quick photo, we picked up our accreditations and set up for official practice. The shoot is nearly 2,000 above sea levels so we expected some small impact to our marks as there’s less drag on the arrows at altitude so it was important to check everything was as it should be. I ended up adjusting my sight tape by half a metre.
During practice, each team was called to equipment inspection which is very much like any UK shoot. Sometimes the judges also check your bag and you can be asked but otherwise it’s all the same as what you can expect from a UK shoot.
After practice, to avoid dragging kit back and forth on the bus, I checked mine into bow storage before heading over to the official opening ceremony, shortly followed by a welcome bevvie and buffet.
Day 2 and 3 were qualification days. On my first day I was randomly assigned to a target with 3 other archers.
After the customary pin swap, we started on the more difficult of the two courses.
My target mates and I agreed to spot for one another. This isn’t a given, some archers prefer silence.
English is the official event language and we were required to use it when competing. The only 4 words we were required to know were good, bad, yes and no. Unlike with UK shoots, there are no tea breaks. You simply continue and dash to use the facilities dotted on the course.
I was very nervous and I didn’t relax properly until perhaps target 8. And this showed. My target mates and I had an equal mix of great and average shots, as well as misses. Unlike my fellow shooters, my lack of experience meant I struggled shaking off the bad shots and carried some of them with me onto the next target. This cost me a few points. I really enjoyed the course and was left a little disappointed with my score but overall I expected I would do better on the second qualification course.
The following day we were ranked according to our first score and put into different groups. We went back out onto our second course, the shorter and flatter of the two. Unfortunately a quarter of that course consisted of deer targets, which I have consistently struggled with all year. And I did once again. One mistake early on caused me to lose all confidence in my shot process, preferring to go for ‘safe’ shots rather than aiming square at the 11. I was left frustrated as a lot of my arrows actually landed where they were aimed, and If I’d simply trusted myself more, I would have had a better overall score.
Unlike other archers who were up on day 1, I was down. Still, it was all to play for as I was through to eliminations along with the rest of the GB team.
Ianseo worked its magic and assigned all of us into pools. Eliminations consists of 6 targets. You shoot your match and if you win, you stay and the next higher ranking archer joins you. There’s really all to play for, and it’s not uncommon for archers to work their way back up during eliminations – but it helps if you’ve done the hard work in qualification!
In my case it was over after the first match and I finished 15th.
Being knocked out in the first round meant I could focus on supporting my team mates and so I joined the big (and fairly noisy) crowd watching the rest of the matches.
If you want to see what it’s all about, the finals are available on World Archery’s YouTube channel . Matches on the finals field are shot over 4 targets, 5 if there’s a shoot off, and there were quite a few of those!
So what now?
I can’t say I’m not disappointed with my overall score, but it’s been a fantastic experience and it’s made me even more determined to improve and come back better.
Archers are a really friendly bunch and this is especially true of field archers. Irrespective of the country you represent, you’ll always find someone cheering for you and sharing tips and advice to help you progress. I have come home with some things to work on and some good advice.
3D is growing in popularity and it would be great to see more Kent archers give it a try. There are more and more courses available and taster sessions being organised across the country over the Winter. Check out the GB & NI Field Archery Facebook Group for more info about tasters and shoots.
All Photos from Cécile Midrouillet