Nottingham. The home of R***n H**d. I rankle a bit when I hear the name, because it’s the laziest of lazy journalistic cliches but still gets routinely trotted out whenever target archery is mentioned. When Alison Williamson – six times an Olympian for Great Britain and an Olympic bronze medallist in 2004 – retired, the Midlands radio show they chose to announce it on played the song. You know. That one. You get the feeling they wouldn’t do that to Jessica Ennis-Hill.
Still, I suppose it did feel appropriate to have the meet here, in a town brimming with mediaeval history. I was on multi-media duties for the last three days: writing, photographing, interviewing and social media-ing. On finals day, in Old Market Square, I had quickly portrait up winners and losers, which is why a lot of the photos are, well, that.
It was preceded by a continental qualifying tournament, on the Thursday evening and Friday morning, with six precious Rio spots available and packed with drama and tension, cheers and tears. You can read about that here.
Special thanks to Jon Nott and team for pulling together such a remarkable event, with a truly spectacular finals venue, sold out on Sunday. Incredible job. I have no idea how you’d manage something this size. Just brilliant.
And it was a great weekend for GBR: qualifying a place for Rio, making four finals and taking two well-deserved medals, and a crowd keen on making a racket. Moving back towards the top tier. In the words of Martin Evans, “I think the lion’s claws are starting to grow back”.
More rumbles down the road to Rio: the European Championships are well underway in Nottingham. The home nation chalked up some confidence-boosting victories with the men’s recurve team making the gold medal match and the women’s recurve and compound teams both making bronze finals, before Patrick Huston strode through the field to make the bronze individual final, putting plenty of GBR shirts in front of the home crowd this weekend. Russia also had a great day at the office this week.
For many nations, though, something much more important was at stake: the continental qualifying tournament on Thursday evening and Friday morning, and its six precious individual spots for Rio. In the end, two archers from Turkey, one each from Slovakia, Finland and Azerbaijan, and (yesssss) Great Britain grabbed spots. World Archery roundup here. That Patrick Huston clinched the place by winning the bronze medal match, every ten roared on by an augmented GB squad. He was only beaten in the semi by the on-fire Gete Mazoz of Turkey – who will also be shooting for gold on Sunday. AGB roundup here.
Bubbling news: Canadian international Jay Lyon has been suspended after failing a drugs test at the Arizona Cup. He is currently unable to compete in Antalya, and looks unlikely to be competing in Rio – pending appeals. More on this story as I get it.
Over at WA, this week’s best-ever Olympian is Park Kyung-Mo, in at number 7. The model of disciplined, intelligent Korean archery, he amassed everything but individual Olympic gold over his career:
“If you’re an athlete, taking part in the Olympics is everyone’s dream come true. If I think back to the times I participated, my heart still beats.”
Photo: Getty Images
Want to know ‘everything you need to know’ about India’s exuberantly named recurver Bombayla Devi Laishram? Here you go.
Crystal Gauvin wrote on her blog about her times in Medellin and Redding, with her usual candour. As I’ve mentioned before, I really wish more elite archers would keep blogs, even if just occasionally. It would add richness and colour to the sport. Come on. Get stuck in.
Over in Korea, the pressure is just starting to pile on the great white sharks, as the Olympic committee wheel out their best prospects for photocalls and interviews. The nation is expecting ten gold medals, apparently – and the archery team is fully expected to bring back at least a third of those. They will be sending over Korean chefs to prepare food for their teams, after the archers (at least) apparently found it difficult to get used to the food at the test event. Kim Jung-Haeng, the chef de mission, said this:
“As many know, the local situation in Brazil is not favourable for the Korean team. The country is 12 time zones away from here and it will take more than 20 hours to get there. Plus there are also security and health issues. However, the Korean committee will provide full support so that the athletes can display their best performance there,” Kim said.
It’s clear that Ki Bo Bae is now pretty adept at handling the media, and can happily say the right things and try to manage expectations. But there’s no mistaking the Korean national mood. Nothing less than gold will do. It seems the time zone problem can be managed; a bigger issue for the archers is whether the Asian (and indeed, the European) teams will be really used to the temperature and humidity outdoors in Rio – or the floodlights that will be used in the individual competition.