Overseas archery: why we love competing abroad
Remember the days when we were allowed to roam freely? Here’s something to jog your memory! Following on from our internationals feature in the spring issue of Archery UK, novice archer Rupert Barlow tells us about his experiences of competing overseas.
So Rupert, how long have you been an archer, and which club are you in?
Two years, nine months. I’m a member of the Griffin Archery Club in Peterborough.
What first attracted you to the sport, and did you ever imagine it would lead to overseas trips?
Around the time I stopped playing golf semi-professionally in 2015, a good friend of mine suggested that I took up archery. His exact words were: “There’s a bloke I watched at the Olympics, a younger American version of you without ginger hair. He is competitive but not as competitive as you can be! Surely it cannot be that difficult to fire a few sticks at a target. If he can do it, surely you can.”
Later, after a bit of research I found out that this ‘bloke’ was Brady Ellison. I repeated this to Brady himself in 2019 at Nimes, and to give him credit he laughed. Since then I have also found out that firing a few sticks at target is harder than it looks!
I was always going to travel abroad to compete, even before I had my first coaching session. In my past I’ve competed abroad in golf and other sports, and the fact that I did not know how to use my recurve bow was not going to get in my way.
Much of the sport I’ve played has been within professional sports. Travelling to compete is second nature to me and to be honest it’s the best way to test any skill. If you want to really see how good you are then you must compete in arenas that take you out of your comfort zone and put you under pressure.
Rupert at Fenestrelle Fort, Italy in 2019
In your experience, is it a simple process to organise a trip to an overseas competition?
Yes it is simple, and in my mind, preparation is key. I personally organise my trips in this order:
a) Flights (checking they allow archery equipment)
b) Book hotel near the competition venue.
c) Find local practice facilities and ask if I can use them.
d) Research public transport and the prices of taxis.
When I travel, another part of my preparation is estimating my carbon footprint and the impact it has on the planet. Then using appropriate calculations I will offset the impact by donating to various climate initiatives. One such initiative is My Climate.
For example, to offset a flight into Europe and back my offset would be having 15 trees planted.
Do you get a lot of club support with accommodation and travel and finding out where you’re meant to be and when at tournaments?
No, but that is only because I have more experience of competing abroad than most archers I currently know. I find myself influencing others to give competing abroad ago, and am always willing to give advice if asked.
When did you first start travelling overseas to compete, and which countries have you competed in? Any favourites, and why do you prefer them?
My first archery international competition was at the Masters in Lausanne 2018, a novice archer in my first season. Since then I have been to Nimes 2019, European Masters in Torino, Italy 2019 and then back to Nimes 2020. This year I will take part in the Indoor World Series and in 2021 the World Masters 2020 Games in Kansai, Japan.
Highlights? Nimes 2020 because I improved on my previous year’s score, and European Masters Games because my friend David Woo won a silver medal. Lausanne, the European Masters, was also a highlight because I was put with the team from Japan for my indoor wa18, wa25 and outdoor 70m. It was great as a novice to shoot with a number of archers who have competed at the highest levels. Just what I wanted to experience.
I like experiencing as many international competitions as possible. It is better to be involved with them rather than just hearing about them from another archer.
As a relative newcomer to the sport, what’s it like to find yourself competing against world-ranked athletes? Is it a motivator?
In my mind, competing against myself is the key motivator. What the best in the world do has to be ignored when you compete against them.
When in competition mode, I ignore the world-ranked athletes, the scoreboards and sitting in a crowd and watching them to avoid becoming ‘idol struck’. When I go to any competition, I am there to compete, whether I am standing next to the world’s number 1,2,3,4 and so on. There are too many athletes who watch their idols and then when it comes to competing against them, they immediately fail. You can have the best technique but if you have already got to the line and believe you are not going to win, you have lost before you shot your first arrow.
In my mind, my motivation to compete in archery can be broken down into two tasks: technique and pressure. Learning technique that can be relied on in competition and learning to deal with the pressure of hitting 10s and only 10s.
What drives you to keep going back, especially when considering the average holiday allowance is around 25 days (if applicable). How many of those days would you happily give to archery trips? Do you usually incorporate competitions into a longer break where you can sightsee, etc?
My drive is to get better every time I get onto my line and my archery target in any given club, county, national or international competition.
With regards to holidays, if you want to achieve in sport you must make sacrifices. We live in a society that wants to eat its cake and have more. In this case the holiday cake is 25 days. I use them all if necessary and unpaid holiday if I need to. Reflecting on the events I’ve been to over the last couple of years, I have not had to use much holiday – putting aside 15 days is enough. The World Indoor Series events are normally at the weekends and I normally travel on a Thursday evening, practise Friday, compete Saturday/Sunday, fly back Sunday.
Next year I will need 13 days to compete in the World Master Games in Kansai, Japan. It will be a mixture of sightseeing and competition preparation. I have already organised 80% of it. To get from Kansai International airport to the archery venue in Tottori I will travel by train – in this way I relax and see the country.
Do you actively seek out tips and advice from the pros overseas and do you find other athletes at overseas events approachable?
If I do seek any advice abroad it will be from the professional archers, but I limit my questions to ones based on routine, dealing with pressure and downtime activities.
Many athletes are very approachable – there have been a couple of occasions that I have been given help without asking for it, especially when I’ve been struggling. What I have learned very quickly in archery is that there seem to be more coaches than actual archers at times. I personally just like to take advice from those who actually ‘walk the walk’, not just ‘talk the walk’. The professional archers do this sport for a living – it is their life, so when I seek advice it is normally only from them.
Rupert with pals at the European Masters, 2019
Can you describe what it’s like to participate in an overseas competition? What’s the atmosphere like – is it very serious or buzzing with excitement? Is it easy to make new friends? What happens after the competition ends each day – do you go out on the town with the rest of your club or do your own thing?
The atmosphere at the competitions vary. The Masters events are very friendly and sociable but the World Indoor Series are more serious due to the fact that there are a lot of top-class archers wanting to win prize money.
It’s easy to make new friends. When you compete abroad people recognise that you have made the effort to travel, and acknowledge this. Generally people are really engaging and want to know where you live, why you’re there and will readily give advice about the best local places to visit.
In the evenings, non-practice days or after the competition ends, shooting abroad gives you the opportunity to explore and discover new places. For example, Nimes has brilliant Roman buildings including a colosseum and temple; Torino has a very good Egyptian museum and Alpine fort on its outskirts; and Lausanne has Lake Geneva and an abundance of Swiss chocolate shops.
Do you put yourself under a lot of pressure to succeed, or do you see these competitions more as just for fun?
Fun…what’s that?! I am there to compete and that brings the pressure. Being very honest, I am there to compete first and then if time allows to enjoy myself afterwards.