Sitting in the cavernous shooting range, sheltering from the September Freshers’ Week drizzle, two long-standing members of the Archery Club chuckle at some probing questions about mental and physical aspects of firing an arrow over and over again.
“I started when I was nine so I’d never say I’ve mastered the technique, as there’s always a day you’ll get beaten,” posits Erik Rowbotham, also the honorary treasurer of the Sports Union, “But to get it right more times than not takes time. Your expectations go higher the better you do, so anyone who says they’ve mastered it, barring the champions…”
He trails off, as Naomi Jones bristles at being called one of those champions. A final-year archaeology student, Naomi is now the captain of the club; “delegation is the key” to ensure she gets her certificate come summer. She holds the National BUCS indoors gold medal with a compound bow, but did gain a bronze in the solo recurve and, along with Erik, a gold in the team recurve. “It was quite good to win,” she says proudly, and lets Erik explain how “recurve is the Olympic sport; the bow made up of aluminium in handle and a carbon-fibre bow. Compound has a pulley system which means you can pull back the same distance but the amount of force will be caused by the pulley. It’s not that it’s any more accurate but it’s less affected by the wind.”
Asked why she took the captaincy, Naomi replies in full awareness of how twee her answer sounds. “Learning a sport then learning about myself and expressing a different side of myself through sport is great. I’ve met some great people, and through being captain I can give something back.”
For EUAC novices, there is a good section on their website which explains how to shoot, and practice certainly makes perfect. Says Naomi: “There’s no such thing as natural talent if you ask our performance coach, but with all the stages we go through there’s always points where it can be incredibly frustrating.” Erik comments on how it is a sport about balance, be it “between standing up and not falling over, shoulders, muscles, one’s sporting ambitions and one’s general mindset to shooting.”
Like Naomi, Jenny Jeppsson learned in Scotland but is in training for the Swedish 2012 Olympic team. Scot Emma Downey, a recent graduate now based in England, was the travelling reserve in Beijing for Team GB and is in the development squad for the London Games. As for who will win, playing as an optimistic Nostradamus for 2012 Erik goes for the Koreans to dominate, with the two hoping a British woman can win the female recurve.
I say how alike to darts or golf the sport is, and Erik agrees, to a point: “A lot of people can hit the ten, but whether you can do it sixty times in a row is up to what your head does.” Novices meet three times a week, and the top players have a sports bursary enabling five archers to receive muscular and psychological conditioning, along with nutrition and physiotherapy programmes. A full-time coach gets the best out of every athlete, and with subs at £20 for new members and a fiver more for returners, value for money never seemed so sweet as the archers are on target for a great season. Some time after our chat, Naomi informs me that the British indoor championships in March are no longer to be held in the newly-developed facilities of Aberdeen, but the more Southern climes of Cardiff; one hopes Naomi and her team will bring back some metal from Wales.