My big goal for this outdoor season was to not only make finals, like I did last year, but to win it. Not only did I want to prove my ability as an archer, but this is the ONE tournament as a target archer where females can actually make real money (20k swiss francs to the winner). After taking some hits financially in contracts over the last two seasons to shoot only equipment (and for companies) I feel like I can stand 100% behind, winning could help me replace the savings I’ve drained to participate in this sport.
After winning Outdoor Nationals and being very consistent in Ohio (highest arrow average and 2nd place finish), I was feeling ready for finals. Unlike last year, when finals was the last weekend in October and I had to train with snow on the ground, the weather was great for my training.
I knew to win, I needed to win 3 matches (one in the morning and two in the afternoon), so that is what I practiced on the days I work from home. I would do a quick warmup, then shoot 15 arrows for score, trying to simulate alternating shooting. I’ll be honest that I’ve struggled at times with the alternating shooting bc I feel like I lose my rhythm, which is one of my strong suits when it comes to archery. The only way to get better at this is to practice, so that is what I did. I wanted to turn my weakness into a strong point.
I also made the decision to ONLY practice and get ready for finals in the weeks between the Buckeye Classic and World Cup Finals. As much as I wanted to win World Field as well, I knew I couldn’t give them both 100%, especially with the time commitments of my job, so I had to choose. One week out, I knew I had made the right decision, as I felt really good about my shooting for finals.
I mentally trained more than I ever have for an event, visualizing myself competing against each competitor I would face, and I felt 100% ready. Then less than a week before leaving, I got the news that Sara Lopez had withdrawn from the tournament, putting my teammate into the 7th seed spot. This was not a curveball I had prepared for and mentally I was thrown off my game. I KNEW I was going to be shooting for the title against Sara, and I KNEW my first round matchup was against Yesim Bostan from Turkey…but no, now I would face my teammate in the first round and who knew who my next match-ups would be against!
Finals this year were held in Odense, Denmark. The weather was beautiful, and we had a nice venue to shoot on (no Eiffel tower, but it was still nice). Practice went pretty typical for me, and I felt pretty good, even with the hiccup of the change in brackets. I was lucky we shot our familiarization (at finals they give all athletes a couple ends of practice on the official field of play the day before matches start) in the afternoon bc I quickly discovered the sun was angled in such a way, I couldn’t see anything. Luckily, Mel (who was serving as my coach for the event) had a trick up his sleeve and gave me something to clip on my visor to block the sun.
The next morning, the sun was in a completely different spot in the sky, so I didn’t need my sun shield, but I also found we were all hitting a little different than the day before. During my first match, I didn’t feel like myself. I was just going through the motions. I didn’t have that extra desire to win, knowing I had to shoot against someone from the US. It wasn’t until the final end when I realized that I was here to get a job done, that I began to get nervous (even with a 5 point lead and 3 arrows to go) because I realized how badly I did want this win.
I know I am very lucky to have made it through that first round. The score I posted did not deserve me a win, but I got it and knew I had to refocus for the afternoon. I was the first match after lunch, and I knew I needed to bring my A game because I had a tough match right away. This is where I can honestly say, I have no clue what happened. I shot what felt like 14 great shots, yet I scored just as bad as I had in the first match. This is probably the most frustrating match I’ve ever shot in because I honestly had no idea where my arrows were going to land. I’d think my arrow broke left and it would hit right, I’d think it was a high 9 and it would be a low left 10. It wasn’t just I was getting more 9s then expected, it was I truly didn’t expect a single arrow to land where it did in this match.
If I’m being honest, I will admit that this started getting me very frustrated. By the 4th and 5th end, I had essentially given up. I didn’t know what to do, so I just had to try to focus on not caring where my arrows landed (very hard to do when you’ve been preparing for this match all season) and just keep shooting good, strong shots you can feel happy with. In my mind, I SHOT well enough to win that match, so it’s still hard for me to swallow the fact that I lost (and by a lot!).
This meant I would be shooting for bronze instead of gold. I felt two season’s worth of frustrations all culminating at this point. I’ve had bad luck when I am shooting well, I’ve had great opportunities but wasn’t shooting at my best, and I’ve gone through the stress (and time) of learning new equipment. To be shooting for bronze was just not something I planned on, and I didn’t have much time to process. I knew I had a quick turnaround to when I’d be shooting again, so I had to regroup, and fast.
I decided to watch the men shoot their matches (and cheer on my teammate, Reo Wilde) to take my mind of my match. I was still upset when it was my turn again, but I also was ready for blood. I didn’t care where my arrows landed, I was not going to end up off the podium. I gave that match everything I had (which looking at my score still doesn’t reflect how I felt I shot), and I came out on top. Did I feel good after that win? To be honest, no I didn’t. I hadn’t come to WC Finals to take home a bronze, I came to win, which I didn’t do.
As disappointed as I was, I had to remind myself that I had improved on my 5th place finish last year at finals, and I was heading off to Ireland where I would have another chance at a World title. I will say, however, I was really happy for Marcella Tonioli who did win the event. I know she works hard, and she deserved to win (as did many of the competitors there). I will say I was really bummed that World Archery didn’t give medals to podium finishers. As upset as I was with the bronze, I still would have liked to have something that says I got 3rd at finals…