After six days at home to wash laundry and catch up at work, I was back on a plane headed to Poland for the 3rd stage of the World Cup circuit. After coming up just short in Denmark, I was determined to have a good showing in Poland. The weather, unfortunately, had other plans for me.
We arrived in Poland to extreme heat and high humidity, and anyone who has traveled much in Europe knows how much they believe in ice or cold beverages…
Official Practice Day
I didn’t shoot a lot. It was hot, and after being at the field for most of the day (before even being allowed to shoot), I thought it was best to just warm up the muscles without doing too much. Stepping foot in our hotel lobby with the AC blasting felt awesome by the time we got back!
Qualification & Mixed Team ORs
My first end of qualification was not pretty, but I was able to shoot decent the rest of the first half to finish with a 346. I wasn’t entirely happy with this, but I knew if I could have a strong second half I could make up for it. The weather was just as hot (if not hotter) than the day before, and I was struggling with the heat as the round continued. I was drinking and using my Nuun tabs (added electrolytes to my water), but it wasn’t enough. I ended up wearing a towel on my head to walk down to the targets just to get a little relief (yes I DID look ridiculous!). The longer we were out there, the worse my scores got. In fact, my last end of the day was a miserable 50 with four 8s and 2 9s, ouch! Apparently this one end dropped me from first all the way to 10th.
The only good thing about all those 8s was it gave me the tie breaker win against my teammate to determine who would shoot mixed team with the top male qualifier. It would be me and Braden shooting again together for this, the same duo that brought home the gold from this event last year. We were once again the top seed, but after falling both times this year in the first round I was determined to shoot well and not let that happen again.
I was able to get some food and some COLD water in my body before we started, and I felt pretty good. Our first match, I finally shot like I know I can shoot in a team round. We easily advanced and faced the Slovenian team that has made medal matches all year. It was a tight match, but we walked away the one point victor. And then the rails fell off. In the next match I shot two 8s and a 6!
Braden tried to carry me, but the hole I had created was too much and we lost by 1. That meant no gold medal match for us, we would have to settle for the bronze match on Saturday. Overall, I shot better, but I still let the team down. I’ve had some pretty big shoes to fill in mixed team with Erika out this year, and unfortunately I haven’t done a great job. I’m pretty sure the US boys are wishing she would hurry up and come back, so they aren’t stuck shooting with me anymore.
I had a bye for my first match, but then I jumped right into the 1/16ths round. My goal for the day was simple. Win 4 matches like I had just done in Denmark. One match at a time, but never let up. I opened my first match with a 146 (w/an 8), followed in the second round with an identical score (again w/ an 8). Linda joked with me if I would just stop shooting 8s…So in my third match I decided to listen to her, and I shot a 147. My shots felt good, and I was reading the wind well, so I was looking forward to the 4th and final match of the day. Win and I was in gold, lose I was in another bronze medal match. Unfortunately, at this point I just sort of lost my edge. I think I was too relaxed, and I kept just missing the 10 ring. I ended up only shooting a 142, and easily lost the match to Alejandra from Colombia.
The field for women’s team rounds were pretty light, with only 7 teams competing. That meant we needed to win 1 match to make Saturday’s finals, but two wins would put us back in the gold medal match. The first match we all shot really well, closing with a perfect 60! That matched us up against the Russian team that we had lost to in Turkey. We knew they were strong competitors, but we just had to focus on our shots.
During the first end, our team’s overall lack of experience in team round reared its ugly head, and we ended up with a miss/highest dropped arrow. There is a lot going on during team round, but we are given very little time for each arrow (and to come on and off the line). This means things happen that you can’t practice for, and how you react in the situation has a lot to do with how experienced you are in a team round situation. We ended up losing the match, but luckily that arrow didn’t make the difference. We all learned a valuable lesson, which we knew would help us in the future. At the end of the day, we were still in a medal match, which meant I was 3/3 making medal matches that week!
Women’s (and men’s) team rounds were during the morning session. Because we were in the bronze match that meant we were first up. The downside to this is there was no match to watch where first arrows landed (the practice range faced a different direction then the finals field). I was happy for this reason that we had Lexi leading off, I knew she would make a great first shot, and then Angela and I could adjust based on her arrow if we needed to. I shot “ok” during this match, but thankfully my teammates shot well, giving us a 3 point victory over the reigning World Champs team from Ukraine.
The finals field was scorching hot, and by afternoon all I wanted was a cold drink and shade. However, I had two more matches to shoot. At 3pm, Braden and I were up for mixed teams against Colombia. With the exception of one arrow, I shot pretty well (not my best, not my worst), but I managed to hit an X on my last arrow. He, as always, shot nearly perfect, and we walked away from a tight match with the W. Make that 2/2 bronze medals for the day.
Now it was the peak heat of the day, and I had to go out there and shoot one more match. This was the first time I can honestly say I was upset that I had made all three matches. The sun was unbearable and there was nowhere to hide from it. I started to feel light-headed, but I told myself I just had to make it through 15 more arrows. It was a tight match until the end, but I made a poor last shot (9), which meant all Linda needed to do was hit the 10 ring to win.
Anyone who doesn’t think archery is exciting or anyone wanting to see an amazing performance needs to watch her last arrow shot in our match (fast forward to 56 minutes here). I didn’t realize on the field, but after watching our match on YouTube, I’m truly in awe of Linda. You can hear her coach counting down 3, 2, 1 and at the last possible second she drills an X! Yes, I’m a competitor and hate losing, but I’m also a fan of the sport and that was awesome to watch (I just wish it was against someone else!).
I wasn’t able to stay to support the team for a variety of reasons, but I was watching score updates as I flew home on Sunday. Our men’s and women’s teams both won gold medals, Zach Garrett won silver after a one arrow shootoff, Mackenzie Brown won gold, and Zach won the Longines Precision Prize award (meaning he had shot the most 10s of any recurve male all week)! So after some disappointing finishes at the first two World Cups, team USA walked away with 8 total medals in Wroclaw!