Antalya is blessed with many things: eternal sunshine, pleasant beaches, delicious fruit and veg, nice people, no-one talking about Brexit and so on. You’re probably familiar with the fact that it’s an eternal fixture on the World Cup circuit, but it’s become a training camp base for many other teams and squads during the rest of the year as well. Why wouldn’t you? It’s well nice.
In Britain, archery isn’t ‘real archery’ unless it involves mud. ‘Real archery’ is rolling a heavy straw boss across a muddy field towards a dark shed in fast-dimming light in temperatures so cold you can’t feel your hands, which is probably just as well, because they’ve now got fox shit on them. It’s not like that in Turkey. No wonder the Russians pitch up here half the year now.
The other big draw for competitors to the Antalya stage is the Rixos hotel, a five-star white edifice perched on the clifftop above Konyaalti Beach, and one of the better establishments in the area. There’s a decent pool and a spa, and an OTT approach with the buffet that improves morale all round. I mean, ten different types of olives. At breakfast. Twenty types of cheese (most of which taste the same). That kind of thing. And it’s only a ten minute walk or a three minute bus ride from the competition field.
Not everyone stays there, of course. Less well-heeled teams have to slum it in one of two or three hotels a bit further down the chain. What a shame.
All rooms at the Rixos have balconies. Legend has it that a well-known Korean archer (no clues, but her name rhymes with Three Dough Gray) was once photographed completely in flagrante on her balcony by some post-competition party-goers on a different balcony on the Sunday night – although no-one, naturally, has ever produced this photographic evidence. The Korean team also throw one member of their team into the pool, fully clothed, every year. But this year, the Korean team didn’t turn up.
Another ever-present feature of Turkey is the huge numbers of stray cats and dogs everywhere. Istanbul is famous for them, but they are all over Antalya, too. This fella here (below) was kindly and sleepily guarding the new path that dangles out across the cliff out the back of the Rixos and leads to a lift that takes you down to the beach.
They occasionally had to shoo a couple off the competition field too. You hear the odd howl at night. Poor sods.
They mostly manage to keep the stray dogs out of the Rixos; the cats, however, are small enough to slip in to the hotel restaurant, and pretty much every time you sit down for a meal, a minute or two later you look down and there’s a miaow, and someone wants their cut of your dinner. They also try the old subtly-brush-past-your-leg manoeuvre too. Most of the cats are young. I’m guessing it’s a short life.
So everything settled into familiar patterns. Everyone is familiar with Antalya – some of the peleton have been going here for ten years – and the competition, a vast ante-room for the imminent World Championships, didn’t throw up any massive shocks. Notty’s crew of junior compounders smashed records. A bunch of lesser known Asian nations turned up (both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, along with the mildly more familiar Kazakhstan, made an appearance – although not at the business end of things).
The Kazakhstan strip has a giant oversize ‘KZ’ logo on it. It reminds me a little of the knockoff Calvin Klein t-shirts you used to see down Chapel Market in the 1990s. It’s absolutely brilliant. More of this sort of ostentatious thing. (Although archery does need an equivalent of Kit Crimes.)
The last couple of days, when the circus moves to the beach, saw some really strong competition and some exciting matches. Like, actual tension. Yes. As a TV spectacle it is constantly improving, but the magic happens when the sport throws up something that pushes people into critical situations. (It was more often than not the bronze matches that caught the attention this year).
Watching Brady Ellison was the most remarkable of all. He seems to have slipped into a kind of god-mode recently. Before he went out for the gold medal match, he claimed to have shot eight thirties in a row on the practice range. It seemed likely. As in Medellin, there was a sense of unstoppability. No one else could really come close. Watching him, I was reminded of one of the best archery quotes of all, by the 2008 Olympic champion Zhang JuanJuan:
The most important thing is having a strong basic technique and movement. Having said that, what makes an archer a champion is their psychological strength – and confidence – because this is what gives them the ability to control a match. You need to have heart as an archer and an athlete. This is what really makes the difference.Zhang JuanJuan
I didn’t pick him for the Worlds before, but I do now. None of the serious Asian or European challengers for the title will get past him , if he can keep that momentum going. It’s not just score. There’s an increasing presence about the man. (In other circles, it’s called… this). It would be well deserved if he managed it, of course.
But the Worlds have a history of surprising everybody.
Thanks to all the team(s): my team, your team, their team.