Category Archives: photo

2013 Archery World Cup Final: Paris

25 September, 2013

I was there. For the recurve day. Bit late to tell you, I know. I would loved to have live-blogged and live-tweeted this for you all, or at the least got a report up the same night, but technology let me down, plus I had promised Mademoiselle Infinite Curve a proper weekend in Paris and we had dinner to eat and cobbled lamplit boulevards to walk, and I’ve been snowed under with work since I got back from that lovely, lovely city. Besides, you all watched it on the stream, right? Right? Oh, you didn’t. Well, here’s your chance:

There’s links to the quarters and the compound day off that video.  You can get the results here. What can I tell you that a proper fancy camera setup and a bunch of professionals cannot? I’ll give it a try. This is a stitched-photo panorama of our seat, one of 2,500 that were, staggeringly, completely sold out, with hundreds more watching from the gaps in the fences. Paris has turned out for this.

The light was a bit flat – the weather was the only disappointment, overcast all day. I went to Lords last year, which was good but genteel, atmosphere -wise. I never, never thought that I’d see an archery tournament start with Mexican waves rolling round the arena. With call-and-response “lets see how much noise the people dans le rouge block can make!” roars echoing off the still Trocadero fountains. With people with their faces painted with the tricolour cracking beers at 10.30 in the morning. I never thought I’d hear shooters introduced like boxers, and hear an archery crowd drumming their collective feet on the stands in joy. Just amazing. You don’t get that from the stream. I just tried.


I also never thought I’d see archers actually mobbed by fans wanting autographs. Like, rock-star mobbed. I took the below pic of Oh Jin-Hyek as he was basically running away from people demanding he sign this and pose for this. A different world. People were excited to get close.

French recurve archer Gaël Prevost pressing the flesh. (or GAAAAAAAEEEELLL!!!! PREEEEEEVOOOOOSSSTTT!! as the French announcer had it). He was damn good. He was one arrow away from beating Uh-Oh. He’s so tall. All the ladies like him too. There’s a really good YouTube piece about him here.


They wouldn’t let me anywhere near the ‘photo line’ this time (I’m not surprised – there were real photographers there) so I couldn’t get anything like the pics I got in Wroclaw. The longest lens I own got a couple of pics of Alejandra Valencia, who was in imperious, lion-roaring mode. So damn good. She’s our new favourite. Drawing that power from someplace *else*.

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The little details were great. Brady thanking God before each round with those fingers to the sky, but punching the air to thank himself and his own talent after winning that bronze. Afterwards, he handed his third place cheque to a tall kid in the crowd. Still trying to find out who.

The parade of  failures, equipment and otherwise.  Still trying to work out what happened to Deepika Kumari when she failed to shoot that arrow. You can watch it again here.

The ironic cheers, that got bigger and bigger, for Jean-Pierre, the line judge – perhaps because he was the last Frenchman left on the stage. Everyone in on the joke. Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Khairul Anuar Mohamad – or rather ‘Joyeux Anniversaire’, of course. Enjoying ‘dix!’ more than ‘ten!’ – the harder plosive sound. There was even some better music between sets (which I moaned about previously) – was pleased to hear Yelle’s Je Veux Te Voir at one point. The DJ was kind enough to save ‘Gangnam Style‘ until Oh had won the individual. He was probably eyeing that up on the cue list all day, wondering when he should break it out. Perhaps he was hoping Oh would do the dance on the platform. He was disappointed.

Also, there was the little thing that few people saw, when [a certain well-known archery coach] dropped the medal draped over his shoulder that his charge had just been awarded and it hit a stone statue by the arena exit (I could hear the clang from fifteen feet back) and he turned away from the crowd to try and rub the mark off it…. oh, joy. That was good.

I had a glorious time, and I’m wondering if an atmosphere like that is ever going to be replicated again. I particularly wonder how the World Championship finals next week are gonna compare – no chance, probably. By my calculations, they did at least €100,000 in ticket sales, and the sponsors must have been pleased. There is an audience for big archery events, and it can be found and nurtured into creating an amazing day of sport.

Now where does it go from here?

Archery World Cup Wrocław: Day 3 report

21 August, 2013


I arrive in Poland like a hurricane that’s just been downgraded to a tropical storm. I am knackered from a stupidly early flight from London; luckily World Archery are kind enough to pick me up from the airport for a token exchange of zloty. I get to the field just as the mens and womens compound qualifications are winding up. Two football fields knocked together in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, built in the 1920’s when Wroclaw was still a part of Germany. Apparently it was renamed with the ‘Olympic’ bit in the folorn hope of hosting some of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. You know… that one. My host is Maciej. He has a dry, and frankly, British sense of humour. I like him immediately. I am given a green ‘media’ bib that makes me look like a fat leprechaun linesman. Just as I arrive, double World Cup champion Sergio Pagni breaks the European record for the 50 metre compound round with a staggering 714 out of 720. He looks superbly pleased with himself in the awesome way only an giant Italian man can be. “Can I take one more picture?”  “OHH, yes.” What a man.


I get the largest coffee I can scrounge. It’s pretty easy to tell how things are going even without the single scoreboard screen next to the entrance. You can easily see an air of despondency hanging over some of the camps. They play some frankly strange choices of music in between ends; I hear ‘Punky Reggae Party‘ closely followed by ‘Bette Davis Eyes‘. (Still, that’s better than whoever was ‘DJing’ at London 2012, when Lords was treated to the Macarena just after a crucial semi). Slowly the forests of expensive hardware, mostly Hoyt, are packed away and the targets get moved back to 70m ready for the recurve men and women. There’s a five-way shoot off for the coveted eighth spot won by Dave Cousins. Erika Jones of the USA came top of the women’s ranking, and submits to an interview. Danielle Brown and John Stubbs, two of Team GB’s finest, are solidly placed for the next day.




A dozen nationalities. It’s a bit of an archery nerd’s paradise. You only have to turn round too fast and you realise you’ve knocked over Viktor Ruban‘s bow stand. Look! there’s… oh, and… and… OMG!… wow, that’s… everybody. The collective talent is terrifying. I even get a smile and a respectful nod from Dean Alberga, the international archery photography capo di tutti capo, resplendent in his ‘Media 01’ bib. The recurves are warming up in the practice field next door, including a full-strength Korean squad, all of whom are byed straight through to the next day after an utterly dominant display in the qualification FITA round on Tuesday.


Teams wander past. Coaches are spread thinly amongst three man or women squad members, who might be eighty metres apart down the field, and have to frequently split loyalties. I speak to the ridiculously young Becky Martin, who is on her own waiting to start the 1/48 eliminations. She did well yesterday, coming 36th out of 90, in her first World Cup. How do you feel, Becky? “Pretty good, was pretty happy, made the top half of the draw.” How was warming up this morning? “Just did a bit, not too much.” Her bow shoulder is troubling her. What’s the problem? “Not sure, I don’t know anything about anatomy!”. She seems confident though, and proves it by hammering Holly Stover of the USA 7-1 in the 1/48. I watch Amy Oliver‘s shot cycle carefully. Her technique is fantastic, but the pause after each shot, where she collects herself, head down, looks like she is staring into an abyss of her own making. Whatever. She beats her first Turkish opponent convincingly.


In the 1/24, I watch the match between Elisa Barnard of Australia and Ika Rochmawati of Indonesia; where the collective support of Archery Australia has lent proceedings more of a Test cricket feel than most matches this evening. Unfortunately, she slumps to a defeat, as does Rebecca Martin. Naomi Folkard, conqueror of the World Games, goes through to the last 32 against Jennifer Hardy of the USA who is still wearing a shirt with her maiden name on the back.


I briefly catch up with Taylor Worth on the practice field as the men prepare for the eliminations. Regular readers will remember that I interviewed him for the blog a couple of weeks ago. He isn’t feeling strong. “Not the best comp I’ve ever had.” He finished 67th of 98 in the ranking round. Could be worse, I suggest? “Not really.” His body language screams that it’s just not happening today, and it seems to prove self-fulfilling; he gets thumped 6-2. Kieran Slater of Team GB, who had a disastrous qualification, gets thrashed by the hero of Antalya, Juan-Rene Serrano of Mexico. The set play is difficult for a spectator, with the long wait as the clock counts down and the athletes trudge across the field and add up the arrows, relaying them to the handheld digital devices that link directly to the live scores that beam round the world:


…and finally change the resolutely manual Velcro scoreboard below the targets. Of course, I should have brought a scope or binoculars, like the vast majority of participants.



Someone asked about the gear. There’s not much to say really, because everyone pretty much uses exactly the same stuff; Hoyt F4/F7 and Ion risers or Inno Max / Inno-Ex Prime, you have to look long and hard to find something not made up of at least one of that lot. You’re nobody without your customised Angel quiver though. I did enjoy Thomas Faucheron‘s Uukha plus Blades kit. The stealth bomber of bows:


Team GB have had a fairly ropey day; Larry Godfrey is out. A final trace of sun does a late streak across the field. It’s the kind of light I have been hoping to take photographs in all day, but unfortunately things are winding up, finished by an exciting double shoot off between Daniel McLaughlin of the USA and Bernado Oliviera of Brazil, the first of which is deemed to close to call. There’s a slightly downcast collective air as everyone trudges to the buses, a mixture of exhaustion and the terrible ennui, for half the recurvers, of failing to make the cut. In Four Iron In The Soul by Lawrence Donegan, one of the best books about golf ever written, the constant misery of failing to make the cut, the next day, is replayed endlessly. The emotional turmoil of matches that you know, deep down, that you could win – but don’t – must eat into these people’s souls.

Not everybody, though. Deepika Kumari sits in the seat in front of me, and softly sings all the way back to the hotel.

Full scores for the day are here. Many more pics here. Tomorrow: mixed teams, compound eliminations to the last 32, recurve eliminations to the last 2. 


archery & fashion pt. 27

6 August, 2013


Spotted outside the J Crew store at the Biltmore Shopping Center in Phoenix, AZ by my friend Jen Turrell (who runs an amazing blog about autism and how it affects families) because she was ‘getting a new battery put in my Mac across the way’.

When I started this archery blog, I wasn’t quite intending it to be a catalogue of the gradual assimilation into mainstream culture of archery motifs, although there’s been quite a lot of that.  It seems to be a strange mix of simple cultural shorthand – the use of arrows and targets has long been used as a visual business metaphor – along with the now familiar sexing-up of archery in the last year or so, plus the fact that, of course targets and arrows and bows simply look awesome.

I actually quite like what they’ve done with the colours above, which remind me slightly more of RAF roundels than FITA targets. But I’m always a bit uneasy about the casual, shopping-mall, sell-some-chinos assimilation of archery. It’s better than that, isn’t it?


London 2012 one year on: 29th July – women’s team final

29 July, 2013

A year ago today I went to Lords Cricket ground for the first of three sessions at the Olympic archery venue. Here’s to the memories. 

At 8.30 this morning I wake up in Berlin, of all places. Long story. Then it’s walk to the station, train, plane, bus, train, tube, bus (to office to dump stuff), bus, tube, and another bus to find myself outside Lords shortly before the 3pm afternoon session with my eight year old nephew. Thanking the transport gods, we go in. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, and it’s probably the first time I’ve properly hung out with him, ever. If I’m going to finally do ‘uncle stuff’, it’s best I kick it off in style: the women’s team Olympic archery final. I sit him down outside and explain how important the day is to the both of us. He’s, like, yeah, whatever Uncle John.  I know now he’s more interested in Star Wars, but one day, he’ll thank me.

We are up in stand 2 on the right of the shooting lanes, so we can see the right-handers front on. Good. Unfortunately the Team GB women got knocked out this morning by a rampant Russia. E wants to support someone, but he seems a bit lost as to who until the noise level around us cranks up, and the excitement builds. Korea are shooting. The immense shower that follows rattles no one (it’s the rainiest day of the shoot and leads to some of the more spectacular photographs). No one even flinches. Me and E hide under an umbrella in the bedraggled stand. You wonder if, given the training standards in Korea, seven years ago the developing squad heard something like “Oh, the Olympics is in London? Rainy old London? Right, turn the hoses on…”. As Ki Bo Bae, Lee Sung-Jin and Choi Hyeongju demolish a miserable looking Denmark, E has picked his team. Luckily the two Korean lads in front of us, who have taken a shine to him, have some spare flags and noisemakers.

The rhythms of the team event become gradually familiar as the afternoon winds on. The ‘third’ up first, usually looking the most nervous of the trio, the quick to the mark second, and the grimly determined first, usually the most senior member. The widest shoulders. The anchor. The skip. The one with the most difficult job. As the gold medal match between China and Korea comes up, no one seems to have taken to this role with more fervour than Yuting Fang…


…a 22 year old of terrifying focus and will. Although she is run a close second by the Japanese skip Ren Hayakawa, the string sometimes distorting her face into a terrifying, malevolent rictus grin.


Both pics source: Paul Gilham/Getty Images Europe

The script is for Korea to win, as it has been for decades. But China come incredibly close. It is down to Ki Bo Bae, needing that 9. I remember watching her, and not the arrow, and then listening to the roar. Just another day at the office. Perfect.

VIDEO to follow: Korea v Denmark in the rain, 29/07/12 at Lords Cricket Ground.

so, where does your bow come from?

17 December, 2012


So I got a new bow. Or did I?

A preamble: This archery blog has been doing pretty well recently. Hello to you, reading this site for the first or third or tenth time. I’m up to over a thousand hits on a really good day, when I get retweeted/reposted a few times (thank you – you know who you are!). When people start translating your articles into French, you know you’re doing something right…

One of the most gratifying things about blogging is that you know where your audience is coming from. Literally. All over the world:

world map

So this last week, as before, the US and the UK are neck and neck in the lead for page hits. But I’ve also had forty-two hits from Columbia, fourteen from Venezuela, and six from New Caledonia, which I am embarrassed to say I had to look up. Altogether 89 countries. Amazing. Thank you. And testament to the global reach of the sport, practised from the Faroes to Japan. (Only one hit from Korea, though…)

Anyway, this internationalism got me to thinking about my bow. Like most modern recurve bows, it’s made up of interchangeable parts, with standardised fittings (such as ILF limbs), sockets, weights, lengths and so on. It’s not really one thing. What I call ‘my bow’ is actually many things that become one when I assemble it and use it. I made choices about those things, but where they come from is mostly out of my hands. I suddenly wondered how far my bow had travelled.

So I started looking. The riser is a Hoyt Matrix, second hand, 2003 vintage. I love the purple fade. I emailed Hoyt to ask them where it was made, nearly ten years ago, but they didn’t get back to me. Internet nosing suggests all Hoyt bows are made at their facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the USA. That’s 4876 miles from London as the crow flies, not including whatever it did it the ten years it was owned by someone else.

The limbs are by Uukha. EX1 “Carbon Monolith” (#38). These are made, with great care, in France. On their website, they proudly say: “We have chosen to develop our bows in France, and to produce it in our own workshop. We do not have any subcontracts in Asia or Eastern Europe.” Uukha are based in Roubaix, a famous cycling destination, and a mere 180 miles to London. Almost locals.

The stabilisers are Axiom by Sebastian Flute. I emailed them. “The Sf-Archery products are made in the Win & Win factories in Korea and China. In the case of Axiom Stabiliser set, it’s made in China.” The email was actually signed ‘Sebastian Flute’. Nice chap. I don’t know where Win & Win’s factory is, but given that the main industrial centre of manufacturing in China is centred round Shanghai, I’ll take the distance from there. 5727 miles.


The sight and button are made by Shibuya of Tokyo, and the back of the button packet proudly says ‘Made In Japan’. The various Shibuya recurve sights were ubiquitous at London 2012 (according to their website, they were used by over 50% of participants). I have the older, aluminium model. That’s 5979 miles, twice.

The clicker, my wristguard, and my arrow nocks are by Beiter of Dauchingen, Germany. I mailed them and asked if they manufactured their stuff there. “Yes. We do not manufacture anything out of our company; all our vendors are from the region; we do import only the carbon tubes for the stabilizers from the US.” Thank you, Mr. Lorenz. 557 miles, thrice.

The arrows are made by (surprise!) Easton, also of Salt Lake City, Utah. 4,876. I have a set of all-American ACC’s, although apparently they manufacture some of the indoor arrows overseas.

My tab (KSL Gold), and my fletchings are made by Arizona Archery Enterprises. They got back to me: “Yes, the KSL tabs are manufactured at our facility in Prescott Valley, AZ, USA.”  5300 miles, at least.

My rest and my finger slings are made by Spigarelli. They got back to me. “Good morning. Both of them are produced in Italy.” Spigarelli are based in Rome. Sadly, Rome is over 1,100 miles from London. Just thinking about the place makes me hungry.

Finally, the grip is not the original Hoyt grip. It is a lovely wood grip made by Svenning, who the previous owner thinks were a Swedish company. If so, they must have folded before the internet era, because I haven’t been able to find out anything about them at all.

So ‘my bow’ has already travelled at least 35,000 miles from at least seven different countries to sit in my hands, not including thousands more via distribution centres, warehouses, shops, and post offices. But where do we stop? One thing you quickly find out about recurve archery is the large number of near-mission-critical items required. Where was my bowstand (SF), my quiver (Easton), my bag (also Easton), or my string made? Or the less critical stuff: my chestguard, bracing height gauge, beeswax, tools… About the only bit of equipment that appears to be British-made is my bowstringer, by KG Archery of Nottinghamshire. (There are, of course, several British manufacturers making top-end recurve equipment, such as Border and Petron, along with many world-class traditional bowyers).

But that isn’t even the whole story. I’m not remotely the first to write about this kind of international manufacturing in the globalised age. The American journalist Thomas Friedman examined the supply chain for his Dell laptop a few years ago and found a huge network of interrelated companies, mostly in South-East Asia, a techno-business ecosystem. Even if something is designed and manufactured in one country, the actual materials and components, wherever they are assembled, may have come from all over the place – often another continent. The fibres, the screws, the grommets, the chemicals, the paint, or the packaging may have come thousands of miles before they even hit the factory. (For a more high-tech perspective on manufacturing in the globalised era, you might want to read about why iPhones apparently cannot be made in the USA.)

It’s great having a new, well-behaving bow. The Uukha limbs are smooth and quiet and the Hoyt riser is beautiful. But: all my other equipment remains the same. The arrows and the tab and the rest and the button are just as critical. I’ve changed only a couple of components of a set that has come all this way to create ‘my’ bow. I doubt I’m ever going to throw everything away and start again afresh, even if I carried on upgrading forever – and it’s received archery wisdom to only change one thing at a time, anyway. It’s a variant on Theseus’s Paradox – ‘The axe that I’ve had for years, which has only needed two new heads and three new handles.’

Actually, perhaps I should consider all the effort in a different way. I am immensely grateful for a post by Greg Ross over at the Futility Closet, a compendium of all sorts of wonderful things, who tells a story about Douglas Adams in Japan:


“On visiting the Gold Pavilion Temple in Kyoto, Douglas Adams was impressed at how well the 14th-century structure had weathered the passage of time. His Japanese guide told him that it hadn’t weathered well at all; in fact it had burned to the ground twice in the 20th century.

“So this isn’t the original building?” Adams asked.

“But yes, of course it is.”

“But it’s been burned down?”



“Many times.”

“And rebuilt.”

“Of course. It is an important and historic building.”

“With completely new materials.”

“But of course. It was burned down.”

“So how can it be the same building?”

“It is always the same building.”

“I had to admit to myself that this was in fact a perfectly rational point of view, it merely started from an unexpected premise,” Adams wrote. The essence of a building is its design, the intention of the builder. The materials may decay and be replaced, but these are only instantiations of a persistent idea. “I couldn’t feel entirely comfortable with this view, because it fought against my basic Western assumptions,” Adams wrote, “but I did see the point.”

Exactly. In this sliver of an era where modern archers don’t make (or directly commission) their own equipment, the essence of my bow is my intention to create it and use it. It is a persistent idea. The parts may change, but the idea of ‘my bow’, the thing personal to me, stays the same. Remember that the next time you realise you’ve left your tab on the kitchen table.

(ba ba ba ba) fashion

5 December, 2012

Following on from last week’s NYT article about the archery ‘explosion’ in the US – which appears to be replicated in many other countries – someone alerted me to what Louis Vuitton has been up to. For the last seven years LV has been the world’s most valuable luxury brand, and it appears that someone there has been noticing which way the wind is blowing.

Borche plume bleue_non opt_PJ

Broche plume verte_non opt_PJ

From the pitch… “LV releases a pair of archery-themed accessories to complement their men’s Fall/Winter 2012 runway collection. The feather pendant decorating the brooch comes in two color combinations and resembles arrow fletches, imparting a seasonal outdoors feel to whichever garment they accompany. In addition to a silver arrow-shaped pin, the brooch features a Louis Vuitton logo bangle attached to the pendant. The brooch pins are now available for purchase at Louis Vuitton outlets.” 

But that’s not all. At LV’s Boston store, amongst others, someone has been building arrow based window displays in order to sell, um, handbags.



pictures from The Savvy Bostonian. 

Does it stop there? Hell no. Hermès has been sticking archery on the runway recently – as, naturally, the perfect accessories to accompany a decidedly Robin Hood-ish winter collection.


Not to mention a variety of Olympics themed / tagged daftness, flogging beauty products and accessories. Google Images is now full of models/actresses/whatever wanging bows, posing dramatically with compounds against moody skies, and, famously, shooting sighted recurves as if they were barebows…



As to what to make of all this, meh. Archery has been sexed-up this year – rather against its will – by a now familiar combination of films, TV and the Olympics coverage. The fashion world of course has no interest whatsoever in archery as a sport. If, say, fencing had been similarly treated, you’d be seeing sabre brooches and models badly wielding foils on the runway (actually fashion runways are a bit like fencing pistes… this could work…).

On one hand, the aesthetics of archery is a big thing for me. I think bows (particularly recurves) are beautiful things both in use and in their own right; and that’s one of the things I wanted to bring to this archery blog. I can understand why someone would want a piece of that. And if it brings more people into archery, or indeed any sport, all the better. Everyone has to find some route in. It’s not like people don’t quickly find out that ‘being Katniss’ is difficult. On the other hand, it trivialises and reduces an ancient tradition and a modern sport into something – anything – to flog handbags and monograms with.

Still, maybe I could pull off one of those brooches…

winter sun

22 November, 2012

…on our outdoor ground, now one of my favourite spots for archery in London. Targets up at 20yd, 30yd, 50yd and 70m.

I shot a FITA 70 round with N, with the temperature dropping to 5°C (41F) – luckily N & M brought some brandy-laced coffee. Was almost dark by the time we wrapped the last end and packed away. Misty. The last couple of ends were like flinging sticks into the darkness, with only that lovely little sound coming back that says ‘you’ve hit the boss’. Still, it got the score I wanted (more on which later), and no misses.

Just ordered some new silk gloves off the interweb. Am going to keep shooting outdoors until my fingers actually feel like they’re gonna fall off.

arrow pt.21

10 September, 2012

Street art with arrow and blood(?). What it means… you tell me. I took this photo on the Avenue Jean Aicard in Paris, France. September 2012.