Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go and shoot in an indoor World Cup? This week a guest post from Rebekah Tipping, who did just that in Marrakesh at the weekend. She did pretty damn well, too.
The idea of going to a World Cup leg in another country has always seemed to be a bit of an unrealistic dream for me. I went to Telford in 2014 and ranked somewhere in the mid 30s, too low even to make the cut for the head-to-heads. So when Tom (Hall) and Emma (Davis) suggested going to Marrakech to me one day in late August, and making a bit of a trip out of it, I didn’t take the idea that seriously. That was until they mentioned that I’d make the cut with the scores I was shooting last indoor season. This got me thinking: what if I did go? I had never been very good at FITA 18 shooting, those three spots are just so small, and I’d never really put in a lot of time in them since most university competitions are shot at Portsmouth faces, but I was prepared to put the work in and feel more confident on them.
When we moved back indoors for the season at the end of September, I decided that I was going to do it. I’d spend the next three months shooting on the FITA 18 faces and do my best in Marrakech. We booked our flights together and got an AirBnB between seven of us to keep the cost low. Things actually worked out pretty well since being a sports scholar at the University of Birmingham meant I was able to use the money granted to me by the high performance centre to fund the entire trip. Then all there was left to do was to train!
We have four training sessions a week in our university club, and I shoot once a week in my flat at a short distance to keep my strength up between training, along with two strength and conditioning sessions twice a week that have proved themselves incredibly valuable in the past few months. In total, between planning on going to Marrakesh and shooting my first arrow of the competition, I think I’d probably had around 160 hours of training, enough to increase my average score from 520 to 560.
When we arrived in Morocco, it was a very strange experience. Our taxi driver didn’t speak a word of English, and I found myself searching into the depths of my memory for some GCSE French. We arrived at our mansion of an AirBnB and got settled in pretty quickly, discussing who would be staying where and planning for the next day.
Before heading to the official practice on the Friday afternoon, we took a look around the souks, the markets that cover a huge area of the city. We got quite lost on this adventure, but managed to make our way back to the venue in time for the opening ceremony and official practice. The practice itself was also a strange affair. We didn’t know that the venue was actually a tent erected in a plaza in the middle of the city. This made it quite challenging, in the sense that we now had weather to contend with over the course of the evening. It wasn’t too difficult though, just quite cold, especially once the lady recurves had finished our hour and a half of practice and we were waiting around for the gents to finish their shooting.
It was mild weather in comparison to the storm that rolled in the next afternoon, that delayed the gent recurves’ second half for well over an hour. I’d like to say at this point we were used to flooding though, as when we woke up in the morning of the qualification round, the bottom floor of our house had flooded, leaving the kitchen and Bryony Pitman’s room under a sheet of water!
DIARY: Saturday, 8:30am – ranking round
Just about to start my first ever international ranking round. Feeling a bit nervous but I think it’s mostly excitement. I really want to perform to my best, so I always get this kind of feeling before a shoot. The hall is busy, full of people feeling the same way, the first detail lined up on the waiting line, bows at the ready, looking forward to showing the world what they’ve got. I’ve warmed up, checked my bow, and looked over my goals and notes in my book. I’m ready. The signal sounds, I’m second detail so I’m going to think about my shot sequence for the next two minutes and get ready to put the past three months of training into action.
Sunday, 9:45am – 1/32 match versus Aude Pipari (FRA) – won 6:2
I was really happy with how yesterday went, and I’m still in a bit of shock that I shot a PB in my first international competition. But at the same time, when I think about all the hours of training that went into preparing for this competition, I really shouldn’t be surprised!
We have 45 minutes until practice for the 1/8th. I’m seeded against an archer that shot 528 against my 560, but that doesn’t mean much, maybe she had a bad day and is capable of much more. I have this mindset that when it comes to head-to-heads, anyone can punch above their weight, so never take it for granted that you’ll get through. You need to shoot to the same standard in a 1/8th or a 1/16th as you would in a gold medal match, because if you don’t, you’ll never see a gold medal match!
Every time I went to shoot an arrow yesterday in the qualification round, I had this voice in the back of my head saying “No timid shots, be confident!” And I woke up this morning to a message from my coach telling me to be confident today. So that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to go out there confident in my process and shoot to the best of my ability.
That match could most definitely be described as challenging. I was shooting against two time Olympian Pia Lionetti and was quite slow to get started. I was certainly right about her shooting below her ability in the qualification after seeing her shoot in the head to heads! We had two ends of practice then straight into the match.I opened with a 27 against her 29. I knew I needed to get myself together and get in control of my shot, so I really concentrated on getting my shots out strong, and pulled out two 29s in a row to match her, but she was not letting up. I had my team mates, and housemates for the weekend, (Tom, Emma, Conor, Sarah, Bryony and Patrick) over to support me now, as their matches had finished after three ends. I feel more confident with my friends behind me, and I think that helped me shoot a 29 to match yet another 29 from her.
The score was 5:3 to her, and I shot a ten and a nine in my first two arrows in that final end. I didn’t look at her target because I knew that would just be putting too much pressure on myself, it didn’t matter what she shot, I wanted to shoot the best shot I could. I took a moment to refocus. I followed my shot process, and made sure to concentrate on the parts of my technique that let me down and still require conscious corrections. Unfortunately my shaking hands maybe not have been under my complete control, and a less than optimal release resulted in a seven on the left hand side. But I’m not upset about it, there is absolutely no point being upset when she shot fantastically and I put up a damn good fight. We both shot at a standard above that of our qualification scores, but put simply, Lionetti shot better.My main goal for this competition was to have a performance that I was proud of, and I have definitely achieved that goal! Now to support my team mates in their matches.
Sunday, 3:30pm – recurve finals matches
My fellow GB archer, Sarah Bettles, who I’ve come up against in head-to-heads numerous times over the national series events this past outdoor season, (we seem to take turns beating each other) got through her 1/8th match easily and found herself in the 1/4 finals against Mexican Olympic archer Gabriela Bayardo. She was very nervous going into the match and asked me to be her coach. I was really quite touched at this, and jumped at the opportunity! Gabriela was shooting very well in practice and Sarah seemed intimidated. She started taking more time on the line and finding her focus before taking her first shot. I think this really helped her, as she opened with a 30 against Gabriela’s 27.
I could actually see Sarah growing more confident as the match progressed, our team mates could testify to this, and I felt so proud to be a part of her match, even though I had been knocked out of the competition already. With some coaching advice from Patrick Huston, who told me about the power of a positive attitude and body language when coaching, I felt more confident in being able to keep Sarah calm and shooting her best. Her next match, the semi-final, was against our fellow team mate (and housemate!) Bryony Pitman.
Bryony’s gold medal match was another tense affair. She was shooting against Mexican archer Aida Roman, who I was on the same target as during the qualification round. To say I was starstruck at this was an understatement, I asked her for her autograph on my target face and got a photo with her after the qualification. Bryony, and coach Patrick, stepped up to the gold medal match with such confidence, it was incredibly inspiring to watch. She came out with guns blazing against Aida, but had a slight blip in the middle and lost a set. Patrick had goaded the British contingent into singing the well-known tune “Twinkle twinkle GBR, Bryony Pitman, you’re a star” and I honestly couldn’t believe the effect it had on her! She started busting out the tens like there was no tomorrow, and stormed her way to that first place finish.
The team atmosphere in Marrakech was incredible, even though we were just a band of mismatched archers from different clubs who didn’t necessarily know each other very well before this weekend, and it was such a fantastic experience for my first international competition. I do believe the game of sardines, which is a version of hide and seek where one person hides and as each other person finds them they join in hiding until only one person is left searching, in the pitch dark in our AirBnB (which was more like a mansion) really helped the team bonding experience, and everyone was very supportive to each and every other archer throughout the whole competition. A particular acknowledgement must go to Tom Hall, who sprinted 2.5km across Marrakech to retrieve Emma’s forgotten sight and made it back before practice began at 8:30am.
And finally, to the frequently asked question of how many archers can fit in one top bunk to hide from an Olympian? Six. The answer is six.