Category Archives: recurve

Trouble in Mexico (part 2)

13 November, 2015

alejandra valencia

Alejandra Valencia with Luis Alvarez in the background.

The Mexican sports pages have been filled with news this last couple of days saying that Alejandra Valencia had been queda fuera del equipo nacional i.e. dropped from the national team, after she apparently failed to attend a training camp in Mexico City prior to the country’s first Olympic squad selection trials.

Senior coach Lee Wong said: “Alejandra Valencia did not show up and therefore her right (to be automatically selected) was lost, and now she must compete on Saturday and Sunday to re-enter.” It seems she is able to join the other athletes invited for selection, but has been knocked down a level or two.

Alejandra said to the press: “I was never sent official notice of anything, just by WhatsApp. If they had given me a plan of what will happen, I would not complain and accept it… but I did not receive anything. ” She also stated she has not had any sporting interactions with the head coach at all.

It appears that Alejandra received a message on short notice through WhatsApp for an pre-training camp meet in Mexico City for the Games selection, but not any official notice or details, and then either “refused” to go or simply did not have enough notice to drop school and family to do so. Reports in the press seem to indicate a lack of clarity in the selection process, or at least a failure in communications.

Ale’s main concern is that she wants to train at home in Sonora with her own coach (where the conditions are apparently very similar to Rio) rather than remain at a lengthy training camp, which is reportedly supposed to continue right up until the Rio Games.

Some of the other athletes have spoken out about the lengthy training camp with an interesting mix of determination and resignation. Luis Álvarez said: “It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about doing what you have to do, wherever and whenever that is.” Karla Hinojosa said  “I had to leave my school, my family, my coach and my boyfriend, with the goal of realising my dream of making it to the Olympics.”

Senior coach Lee Wong seems to be very invested in conditioning the archers to train in Rio-like conditions. Once the training center in Mexico City closes at the end of the year, the archers will move to a camp in Playa del Carmen (on the Yucatan Peninsula) for the heat and humidity; the archers will also be headed to Vegas in January and the final national team will be determined at the conclusion of the early 2016 World Cup stages.

There have been well-documented issues in Mexican archery recently, with ongoing financial and management issues between the governing body and the national Olympic committee (CONADE). Whether this issue is related to that drama is unclear.

Many elite athletes have succeeded at the Games over the years by staying outside (or partially outside) an official programme, and many others have been deselected for the same reasons. It would be a disaster for Mexico if their women’s squad – a good shot for a medal – lost one of their strongest competitors with Olympic experience, and the sport generally would be much poorer without Ale, the 2011 Pan-American champion.  Let’s hope Mexican archery gets its act together as soon as possible.

Thanks to Dario Maciel for assistance. 


Le fabuleux destin d’ Ki Bo Bae (기보배)

27 January, 2015

I thought I’d seen every dumb thing that longtime TIC favourite Ki Bo Bae had done (or been coerced to do) in the name of sporting publicity. I was wrong. As an Olympic star, she’s one of the faces of the Gwanju Universiade this year, and a little while ago, she had to do this:

To be fair, I can barely keep up with her. The life of an Olympic gold medallist in South Korea is obviously a busy one – although it should be pointed out that she’s a better dancer than she is a singer. However, she’s always game for something silly in front of the cameras – controlling things with her mind, for example, or pitching baseballs with a bow. She’s no stranger to the classic gameshow sharpshooting display either. And, not unlike Jessica Ennis finally cashing in on her years of Olympic sacrifice by stepping out for Santander, Ms. Ki has also been spotted flogging hi-def Samsung monitors – but we shouldn’t forget her charity work, helping the Korean archery team deliver winter fuel to the poor (as they do every year) or indeed, straight up saving the planet.


Ms. Ki was pressed into service to commentate on the Asian Games last year, when she broke the news to an apparently surprised Korean media that her and Oh Jin-Hyek were no longer together – news that was broken on The Infinite Curve only *ahem* more than a year beforehand.  (Oh Jin-Hyek got married to someone else in 2014).

But back to archery. She managed to maintain form last year despite being sidelined from Korean national duties (apparently due to a shoulder injury), and has even been filmed recently giving away training, um, ‘secrets‘. Hopefully she’ll be in form enough to be back on the recurve front lines again in 2015. Or failing that: more dancing, I guess? 😉


question time: Alejandra Valencia

1 July, 2014

Alejandra Valencia, 19, has been part of the Mexican recurve team since 2011. She won two gold medals (team and individual) at the Pan American Games in 2011, and qualified for the World Cup Final in Paris last year. She is currently in Legnica in Poland shooting at the World University Championships. In English y Español (véase más abajo).

How do you keep calm just before you are going to shoot?

I breathe – and then I concentrate on what I am going to do. I just focus on my technique.

Do you have any particular warmups or rituals before going to the line?

No, I only do the normal sorts of warmups, and then I just get ready!

What would you do to raise archery’s profile for the public?

It would be good to have more broadcasting of the competitions, maybe give more exhibitions in places, things like that.

Is there a version of the sport that could attract new audiences?

Well, what is happening right now with the movies that are being released, recently there was that streak where almost all the movies had someone using a bow and arrow, that helped a lot for people to get to know archery – that is going to be the thing that helps people know the sport and get interested in it.

What is your favourite sport apart from archery and why?

I like all sports, really. I can’t choose anyone in particular. Sorry! :S



Alejandra Valencia at the World Cup finals, Paris, 2013.

What is your greatest strength?

My greatest strength, maybe, would be that I am very calm when I am doing things, so I don’t panic easily.

What does an ordinary day in your life look like when you are preparing for a tournament?

I go to university in the mornings and train in the afternoons, although sometimes I train in the mornings before going to school. That’s it.

What is the best advice you have given to someone else?

Hmmm… I would say “train as if you were competing and compete as if you were training.”

Do you believe in luck?


What is your favourite country you have visited through archery?

Hmmm…. I think that Holland is nice. I like Amsterdam very much, I’ve only really been there for four hours, but it’s very calm, very clean and very beautiful. 

What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?

A perfect Sunday would be to sleep late, peacefully, no homework, no worries, and being with my family in the afternoon.

Why do you keep doing it?

Why do I continue doing archery? I don’t know –  perhaps because I get a lot of fun out of it, and I never get bored!


and lastly,

What are you drawing next? (Alejandra was drawing a new picture on her Facebook page every day)

LOL… well, that was a challenge to draw something new every 30 days, but I lost it!  But I’m always drawing something, every day. I love to draw.





¿Como mantienes la calma cuando vas a tirar?

Respiro y me concentro en lo que voy a hacer, me enfoco en mi técnica.

¿Haces algún calentamiento? Kabala? Ritual?

No, solo hago el calentamiento normal y despues me alisto para tirar.

¿Qué harías para dar a conocer a dar a conocer a más personas el perfil de un arquero?

Tal vez teniendo mas difusión en cada competencia, dar exhibiciones en lugares o cosas así.

¿Hay alguna versión o algo diferente del tiro con arco que tú crees que pueda atraer a un nuevo público?

Lo que orita esta funcionando  son las peliculas que estan saliendo, hace poco hubo una racha donde casi todas las peliculas tenian a alguien que usaba un arco y una flecha, eso ayudo mucho a que la gente conociera este deporte y se interesara por el.

¿Cuál es tu deporte favorito aparte del tiro con arco y por qué?

Todos los deportes me gustan, no podria elegir uno en especial :S

¿Cuál es tu mayor fortaleza?

Mi mayor fortaleza sea, tal vez, que soy muy tranquila en cuestion de hacer las cosas, no entro en pánico fácilmente

¿Cómo es un día común en tu vida cuando te estás preparando para un torneo?

Voy a la escuela en las mañanas y entreno en las tardes, a veces entreno en la mañana antes de ir a la escuela

¿Cuál es el mejor consejo que has dado?

Hmm…. yo creo que seria el de ”entrena como si compitieras y compite como si entrenaras”.

¿Crees en la suerte?

Tal vez, si.

Cuéntanos como es un Domingo perfecto para tí.

Un domingo perfecto seria dormir tranquilamente hasta tarde, sin tareas, ni preocupaciones y poder estar con mi familia en la tarde

Cuál es tu país favorito,  en el que hayas estado, para tiro con arco, y por qué?

hmm… yo creo que holanda, me gusto mucho amsterdam y aunque solo estuvimos 4 horas  la ciudad estaba muy bonita y tranquila, ademas de limpia

¿Qué te mantiene practicando  el tiro con arco?

que me mantiene tirando? no se, tal vez sea porque me divierte hacerlo y no me aburre

¿Cuál será su dibujo mañana?

Jajaja… pues eso era un reto de dibujos de 30 días pero lo he perdido, pero yo siempre estoy dibujando algo nuevo cada día. Me gusta dibujar.


More on Alejandra:

Good piece by ESPN here (in English), with some background. 

Video piece by ESPN here (en Español).

Special thanks to Teresa Colunga De La Vega.

Interview: Richard Priestman

28 May, 2014



Richard Priestman competed in three Olympic Games for Great Britain, and came home with two bronze medals from the team events in Seoul and Barcelona. He has been an archery coach since 1993, and has travelled the world coaching national sides. This year, he has been coaching the Columbian recurve squad, the women’s team achieving a silver medal in the Shanghai stage of the World Cup. Richard was kind enough to take some time to answer my questions via email while preparing for the upcoming stage in Antalya


Can you explain how you got started in coaching in Britain? 

I have always enjoyed coaching, even when I was a competitor I used to do a lot of coaching. When I retired from international archery in 1993, the GNAS (now Archery GB) asked me if I wanted to be involved in coaching and I was voted into the position of Director of Coaching and then went on to be the national Coaching Organiser for the national training squads.

Which countries have you coached in now and for how long?

I was coaching with the British team for approximately 10 years (no salary in those days), then worked as the national coach in Bangladesh for 2 separate periods – 2009 to 2011. In between, I worked for 5 months in Nepal with their national team (initially on behalf of the Asian Archery Federation) to help them prepare for the 2010 Asian Games. After the World Championships with Bangladesh in 2011, World Archery employed me as an agent to work on the Latin American Youth Development Project. I worked with 6 different countries: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela. My role was to hold 1 month training camps in each country in turn and then return to evaluate and further improve the archers and coaches in each country, specifically to raise standards in international competitions. I worked on this project for 2 years. I do keep in contact with many of the archers and coaches I have worked with in the past, I am always eager to see how they are all progressing even though I am not with them any more. I have been with so many countries that invariably my current team will end up competing against one of my former archers!

You were appointed as ‘temporary’ recurve coach for Brazil last year. How did that come about?

Brazil were without a national coach and World Archery wanted to support them, especially as they are the hosts for the Rio Olympic Games 2016, so I was asked if I would go there to help them. Originally I was temporary until Brazil could recruit a permanent national coach. Brazil did offer me the job but despite the rapid improvement in scores and some great results in international competitions, I decided that my future was to be elsewhere. I do wish them well for the future. They have some great talent, especially 16 year old Marcus Carvalho and Sarah Nikitin.

The Brazilian recurve team have, fairly suddenly, made quite an impact at the last two World Cup stages. How much of that would you say is down to changes you have made?

Sure, Brazil’s improvement came after several months of really hard training. They have a full time training camp. I made a lot of changes to their training schedules, increasing the numbers of arrows they were shooting, and made important improvements to their techniques. A lot of attention to detail. I changed their fitness training routines, improved eating habits and introduced many new ideas for the sports psychologist to work with the team.

How long have you been coaching the Columbian national side? Is it just the recurves?

I will work with the recurve team. Initially a lot of work with the mens team to improve standards, but I am sure I will cast my eyes over the compound archers and help them and their coaches. This is my first official week training in Colombia. I travelled to Shanghai for the first World Cup to be with the Colombian team, but had to return to England to apply for a work visa. I only arrived in Colombia one day before the start of the World Cup in Medellin.

It’s obviously been a fairly short time, but what changes have you made so far?

In the short time I have been with the Colombian team I have concentrated mostly on observing the team, looking at their strengths and weaknesses, but already making suggestions to the archers and their coaches. Now is right in the middle of the competition season so not the best time to make any major changes, but the mens team have already started the long process of change. I prefer a slow evolution of technique and thinking.

Is there a particular coaching ‘philosophy’ or strand of thinking you adhere to?

I have studied many different successful winning techniques over the past 40 years, from the USA team of the 70s to Russian male and female techniques, the different Korean techniques etc. I utilise best practices from all techniques I have seen and from my own shooting experience, make changes which I think are appropriate to the archer I am working with. Certainly I was influenced by great champions from the USA such as John Williams, Darrell Pace, Rick McKinney, top coaches such as Al Henderson, Kisik Lee and Kim Hyung Tak. Most of my coaching has been to work with already experienced archers, so it is very difficult and often destructive to their scores and confidence to make big changes to technique. I prefer a slow evolution to improve on what they already do. Much of my time has been spent fixing technique and physical weaknesses, importantly clearing misunderstandings about the techniques the archers have already been taught in the past.

I concentrate in getting the archer into a position where it is easier for them to make expansion. I want the archers to know where their expansion comes from, learn how to control the expansion under pressure and how to control their follow through to maximise their scores. All the archers who have worked with me know I like very much to utilise bow training exercises with their training, used in the right way, many of the archers problems will disappear with the appropriate exercises. I find with most developing archers, the biggest limitation to progress is physical, so that is where I usually start. Only once they are fit enough to control their bow can we effectively begin to improve skills and their mental game. I try to be a student of archery and I am always looking for new ideas.

With recurves, how do you teach the release phase of the shot cycle?

I teach the archers that they have to learn set up, engage and really feel the parts of their body they will use to make expansion. The archer must concentrate on expansion and commit to the expansion before, during and after click. The click is just there to signal the relaxation of the string fingers…expansion does not stop until the end of follow through. Release is not an action of taking the fingers off the bowstring, the bow string will push the relaxed string fingers out of the way. A typical good release will involve the string fingers moving in towards the neck on release rather than the fingers opening and moving away from the neck. I think it is very important too to encourage the archer to start expansion before or at the same time as they start to aim. If the archer waits until after aiming before they start expansion, then the shot will very likely be too slow and full of extra tension.

What’s your greatest strength as a coach?

I have a lot of experience both as an archer and as a coach. I have seen every kind of problems and mistakes made by archers and coaches. I do a lot of observation and discussions with the archers to help me understand how and why they make the mistakes they under pressure, then make solutions to help them fix and improve what they do. I aim to teach the archers to understand better their bodies and techniques, and how to prepare themselves better for competition, helping them to cut the mistakes to a minimum. Good scores are not made by shooting more tens but by learning how to stop the mistakes happening. If an archer prepares effectively for each shot, understands how a good shot should feel, visualises that process, then executes the process without fear, then the arrow has to be in the group. I expect all archers to eventually be self sufficient and not have to rely on a coach to perform well.

Do you believe in luck?

Definitely, many matches are won and lost with good or bad luck. Plus you can lose with a good score and win with a bad score.

What’s your favourite sport apart from archery, and why?

I love badminton, I used to play a lot in high school, and my son is now exceptionally good. He is one of the top under 17 players in England. Maybe one day I will become a badminton coach.

Are you going to stop travelling eventually?

I love travelling, I have been travelling ever since I was a small child, so probably unlikely I will ever stop. It has been a real pleasure to work in so many different countries, different languages, different cultures, and religions. I get more pleasure now helping archers to improve, shoot personal best scores, and to win medals than I ever did when I was a competitor.

Thank you Richard. Good luck in Antalya!

korean archery secrets pt.42

18 May, 2014




The two pics above were taken by Gabriel Buitrago at the Medellin World Cup a couple of days ago. (You can see the rest of his Flickr stream here.) They show the Korean women’s recurve team lining up like… well, schoolgirls, to listen to their coach, Ryu-Soo Jung. The lower pic catches at least the younger members of the Korean men’s team in mid-bow to their coach.  Bowing in South-East Asian culture is a deeply ingrained part of society, and it’s not surprising to see in in sporting contexts, either. I visited Japan a few years ago and went to see a football match (FC Tokyo v Albirex Niigata) where the entire home team squad bowed to each section of each stand after the match, the whole process taking nearly ten minutes before the guys could go off and have a shower. I was personally bowed to for nothing more than buying a few postcards in a shop, which made me feel a bit awkward, frankly.



I ‘met’ Ryu-Soo Jung (above right) in Wroclaw last year, when I got slightly too close to her charges trying to get photographs of the Korean squad for you, dear readers. She gave me a look that could curdle milk. I got out of the way.

The culture of deference towards teachers – indeed, anyone older than yourself – in Korea is based upon Confucian principles, and the education system, while staggeringly successful on a global comparative scale, is frequently criticised by non-Asian Westerners for its pressure cooker atmosphere and lack of creativity, amongst much elseBut in recurve archery, the standardised system of training and complete subservience to coaches has resulted in a deep pool of elite level archers, and a series of results which speak entirely for themselves. No one comes to archery later in life or even in their late teens – the talent is nurtured from age 6 and up. However, the junior archers fit the system, and not the other way around – left-handers, for example, are encouraged to take up other sports and will never make it through the high-school / university / professional system that could take them to an international event or the Olympics.

It is easy to say “this is how it’s done”, but realistically, there is no chance of this happening in any other country. These photographs are a visible representation of a long, deep, pragmatic and complex process that only happens in one place. You can import the coaches, the biomechanical approach to shooting, and the brutal levels of training, but you can’t import the social dynamics, sporting systems and money that Korea has in place to produce recurve archery champions over and over again.


Thanks to Chris Hill. 




29 April, 2014

Well that was fun, although getting up at 7am on a Sunday morning to watch it wasn’t. In the wrong timezone, here…

Full results here:

I see the Indian media haven’t changed their aggressive stance on overseas sporting success, which I wrote about previously.

Must repost something from the new trend of ‘podium selfies‘, the immensely talented mixed team recurve sixsome of Juan René SerranoAída Román, Mackenzie Brown, Brady Ellison, Naomi Folkard and Larry Godfrey.  Looking forward to Medellin!


Where is the Korean recurve team at #WC Shanghai?

23 April, 2014



Answer: Shooting… in Korea. The picture above was put up by the Korean Archery Association on their Facebook page today, as the ranking round took place at the Yuanshen Stadium.

Many people have noticed the absence of a Korean recurve team at the current Shanghai World Cup stage (although the KAA has sent a compound squad).  It’s almost ‘our’ equivalent of Brazil or Germany deciding to skip the football World Cup. Meh, we’ll sit this one out. These are the facts: the dates of the Shanghai and Medellin stages were moved at the end of last year, and the KAA had already arranged for this week to be their selection shoot for the upcoming Asian Games. The above eight got picked today. Stick your money on them now. (There is compound archery in the Asian Games as well this year, but I guess they are picking that team some other time.)

The Korean team frequently skip one or more stages of the World Cup, presumably because they are sure they can get enough points for the grand final in two competitions. Apparently this year they will be in Medellin and Antalya, but not Wroclaw, because this year the Wroclaw date clashes with a national shoot in Korea. Clearly, they can’t be bothered with these tuppenny-hapenny international tournaments when there’s serious work to be done at home – and of course, the standard of competition is likely to be higher. It’s a wonderfully intransigent statement to the archery world. “You fit round us, we don’t fit round you.” But it’s also a shame for the archery audience, because it lessens the sporting spectacle when the biggest dog in the fight doesn’t show up.

I do like the exclamation-mark-riddled way Chrome has translated the KAA Facebook page below. Seems to sum the above up pretty well:



 Thanks to fanio for pointing something out.