As much as I’m generally not a fan of South Dakota, especially during the winter months, I was looking forward to heading there for my first World Championships as a recurve archer. I was even more excited to have a World Champs on home soil, even if it did mean visiting Yankton in February.
Many of us participating in World Champs headed directly there from Vegas. Some of us got luckier than others in flights, with many getting delayed or cancelled, and some even getting stranded in Denver. Thanks to a direct flight to Omaha, me and my teammates had smooth travel, with no issues. We landed to yards covered in snow and Paige and Cassidy couldn’t believe the cold. It was that bone chilling cold when the wind is whipping right through you, yep just slightly different than the 60-70s we had in Vegas. One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we picked up our truck from the rental car company, they hadn’t shoveled the snow out of the bed. As someone who has lived their entire life in parts of the country that regularly get snow, I thoroughly enjoyed putting Paige to work with the shovel!
We managed to make it to Yankton safely and even got some arrows in at the range. I made a change in my sight (I had picked up a new one in Vegas), and people on instagram noticed it right away…I’m always amazed at the little details people pick up in photos. I spent unofficial practice playing some with my stabilizer weights since I had changed the “feel” of my bow in Vegas.
For those of you who have never been to a World Championship or World Cup event, official practice day means you must be in team uniform and you can only shoot on your assigned bale, during the same time as your qualification round will take place. In addition, archers from the same country will shoot the same position, just one bale apart (ex: US recurve senior women at this event were 19C, 20C, and 21C). I lucked out at this tournament, and recurvers were shooting in the morning (have I ever mentioned I’m a morning person 😉 I am not someone who likes to practice a TON on the day before qualification. For me it is a chance to get familiar with the lighting, make sure my equipment is dialed in, and loosen up the muscles. I spent the time plotting some of my arrows using the Artemis Lite app, so I could make sure I picked out my 3 best arrows for the qualification round the next day.
To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect during qualification. Each day, I was feeling more confident in the “feel” of my bow, but after a rough Vegas tournament, I honestly had no expectations. I decided before we began that I would just shoot for good timing instead of worrying about the score. Throughout the round I did feel like my timing was good. I was rarely holding long, and I was coming off the line each end with over 30 seconds still on the clock. I know people talk about recurve not being an aiming discipline, but I did feel like my aiming was a little off, especially in the first half. Why do I say this? Well, arrows kept landing where the pin was! That’s a great feeling for confidence in your equipment, but not so great score wise if your pin isn’t always in the middle!
At the start of the second half, I changed my focus a little, thinking about a strong bow arm directed at the target. I knew if I could maintain this, there was a greater chance of hitting 10s. This slight adjustment in thinking paid off, and I shot 29, 29, 29 to open the second half. However, the next end was a 24, shooting a 9, 8, 7! This threw me for a loop a bit, as I didn’t notice myself doing anything different. The next end was a 27 (10,9,8) and then a 26 (10,8,8). At this point I was starting to get a bit frustrated as I wasn’t sure what had changed. I had someone point out that they could see my bow tipping one direction or the other on the arrows landing in the red, so maybe pay attention to my grip a little more. This did seem to clean things up a bit, but the damage was done and the second half ended lower than the first.
I was pretty bummed, finishing 19th with a score I wasn’t proud of (but in line again with what I shot in Vegas and had been shooting in practice). I was, however, excited for the elimination matches, as I knew I could string together enough good shots to upset the better seed and hopefully work my way up the bracket. We had finished qualification ahead of schedule, so we ended up getting a decent length break (45mins-1hr) before we would shoot one OR match before handing the field over to the compounders. I made a crucial mistake as someone who is hypoglycemic, and I didn’t eat anything during this break. In my head, I would grab lunch after our match (whats 9-15 arrows?), so no point in eating now and spoiling my lunch.
As we started the match, I was feeling pretty good and my shots were landing well. However, I quickly realized something was wrong as I began to shake as I raised the bow (and not from nerves types of shaking). This caused me to start letting down more, holding longer (as I tried to steady the pin), and ultimately running out of time to shoot my 3 arrows. I lost the match 6-4, and immediately collapsed in the back of the bleachers, as I inhaled food that one of my teammates had brought for me. I was pretty mad at this point. No, I wasn’t mad that I lost my match (though sure I was disappointed), I was mad at myself for not eating. I’m 33 years old, and I’ve been dealing with this since I was in 5th grade or so. I’ve passed out too many times to count from this in my life, yet I still haven’t learned! Soooo frustrating! So next time you see me at a tournament, especially one that is dragging on, make sure you ask if I’ve eaten anything recently!
The next day were the rest of the elimination rounds through the semi finals. Because I was out individually, I had the day off. I helped coach a few of my teammates (and by coach I mean stand behind them and make sure they drink water or have someone to take their mind off shooting), and then I spent time at the practice range to make sure I’d be ready for team rounds the next day. I said from the start of making this team that my goal was to do well with the team. I knew individually I may not be ready for a medal, but I was determined to have our team make a medal match (something I’ve been a part of at each indoor world champs I’ve been to). I made a few more adjustments to the weights on my stabilizers, and I definitely started getting more in a rhythm and scoring better. I was lucky enough to be shooting team round with two past Olympians. How cool is that? We ran through our order and the flow seemed to work with me going first, Tatyana second and Mackenzie last.
We moved from the practice range to the official field where we got another 3 ends of official practice before scoring began. I found initially, I wanted to run off the line super quick, before I had really even finished my shot. Coming from the compound side of things, time is typically a huge factor in team rounds. I had grown so used to the need to speed up from shooting compound, that I was rushing too much. Luckily, Mackenzie noticed and reminded me how much time she was being left with each end (plenty), so I could take a few extra seconds to finish my shot. We faced off against Ukraine, and while we shot well as a team, they just shot better (59s all 3 ends!). Not much you can do when your opponents are shooting way above their average. I was happy for the experience, as hopefully I will get to shoot team rounds in the future as a recurve archer (and I think each time you shoot team you learn something new), but I was definitely bummed that my tournament was over.
Jr team rounds were up next, and I had the pleasure of helping the Jr women’s recurve team. They are a quiet group, but WOW! can they shoot. They opened up their first end of scoring with a 60! In the end, they also lost to Ukraine (in fact every single US recurve team lost to a Ukraine team!), but much like me, I think they all learned something and gained some confidence for the future. I look forward to shooting with these girls as they move into the senior class, as you can really see the hard work they are putting in. Every one of our compound teams made it cleanly through the day, meaning all four would be shooting for a gold medal on Monday!
Sunday was recurve finals day, and unfortunately the US had only Adam shooting in the JR bronze medal match to cheer on that day (the jr boys team had won the bronze medal, but that match had taken place the day before, not in the finals arena). Adam definitely made shooting in the finals area look easy. His first arrow hitting a 10 and he remained strong throughout the match. Set system got the better of him, however, and he lost a tight match to finish in 4th place. Much like every night in Yankton when we got back to our rooms, we turned the tv on to watch some of the Olympics. Then we fell asleep, so we could be up early the next day to cheer on everyone we had shooting for medals (4 teams, 5 individuals).
Shortly before 2am, I was awoken to knocks on the door, and Paige looking like death. After she described her symptoms, I knew immediately an ER visit was necessary. We bundled up and headed out (in the severe freezing rain) to find an ER and get her taken care of since she had to shoot team round (for gold) the next day. We got extremely lucky and there was no wait and a great nurse (and doctor) that took care of her. After two full IV bags and some other “legal” drugs (yes, we had to check everything they wanted to give her before allowing it to enter her body), we made it back to the hotel around 5am. This was just enough time for me to fall back asleep before my alarm went off to head to the range.
We left Paige and went through the morning session where our Jr teams both won Gold, Cassidy won individual Gold, Curtis won individual Silver, and Ethan individual 4th place.
I then headed back to fill Paige’s prescription, pick her up some Depends, and grab her so she could hopefully shoot 8 arrows out of her bow. During the afternoon session, I didn’t get to cheer on my teammates, but I did get the opportunity to sit above the finals field and help commentate the matches with Greg White (famous tv announcer and history channel star, also known as Mr 300). It was definitely hard to stay neutral at times when we had so many people shooting for medals. First up our compound women’s team (with Paige as the anchor) won their match, next up the men’s compound team won theirs (in a much closer match then I think many expected). Then, unfortunately, Kris and Jesse had to shoot against each other in the bronze medal match. They were dead even through 2 ends, but Kris was the first (and only) to blink with Jesse cleaning the match (anyone who has shot in a finals match knows how impressive this is!) and taking the bronze. At the end of the day, all four US compound teams walked away as World Champions!
Overall, there isn’t much else to say. This was a really tough tournament for me in a lot of ways. I was reminded of what I’ve had to give up. Watching the World Cups from home this year was tough, but this was even tougher. Being at an event like this and NOT shooting in the finals, especially when every single US compound archer is, was really hard. Obviously, this isn’t something I’m proud of bc I truly am happy for all of them, but it was just hard wishing I could have been up there with them. I get asked all the time (especially by parents) if this transition from compound to recurve is easy. And while from the shooting side it’s not EASY, the hardest part is definitely the mental side. Going from being on top to somewhere in the middle is HARD. I have to remind myself it is all about the big picture, and when I make the Olympics, this will all seem like a drop in the bucket. But I can tell you, standing there in the moment, it is definitely not easy!