Umer: Addicted to the Search for Perfect Shooting

10 February 2016
Despite suffering through a family tragedy, Ana Umer’s quest for perfection brought her success in 2015.

Header image: Dominique Porte/FFTA. Body images: Dominique Porte/FFTA, Dubravko Buden.

Ana Umer, though just 25 years old, has been competing internationally for over a decade, in both target and field archery disciplines. The latter, she says, is one of her favourite activities as it helps her stay relaxed. In 2015, at the European Field Championships, she overcame immense pressure and a family tragedy to take home her first major title.

In Rzeszow, Poland – and despite everything – Ana won individual gold.

“I struggled to enjoy that beautiful city because I lost my father to an accident at the same time,” she explains. “All I could do was fight, using that endless love I have for archery.”

Ana chose to continue competing at the Europeans even after learning the news, passing through the two qualification stages, two elimination phases – and, eventually, into a gold medal match against Natalia Lesniak from Poland.

She held the lead from the start.

Two targets in, Ana had a five-point advantage (27-22), and says she felt she could rely on her personal rhythm to continue fighting with that inner strength and passion. On the third target, Lesniak caught two points up, cutting Ana’s lead to 40-37 – but the Slovenian archer was stronger over the final three arrows, collecting gold, 54-49.

With teammates Toja Cerne and Tina Gutman, Ana also won the women’s team third-fourth place playoff against Great Britain (56-50), collecting a bronze medal.

Throughout the competition, Ana was sure her father was with her:

“In the moment of winning the gold, I was thankful for my dad for bringing me into this sport, always believing in me and supporting me. Those two medals that I won in Poland were a gift for my family and were shot for the proudest father in the world.”

Ana’s father was a journalist and, in 1999, he took her to a work event, where he met former classmate Irena Rosa. Irena was president of the Slovenian archery federation at that time, and remains involved in archery as an international judge to this day. After Irena told them about archery classes in Ana’s elementary school, and the club in the same city, Ana’s father entered her into lessons.

“I was nine when I started shooting barebow. Only two years later, I switched to recurve. I practised once, maybe twice, per week,” says Ana. “In 2004, my father told me that I needed to choose where to focus my time, as I had been playing violin for nine years and I was a handball player. I wanted to be an individual athlete and I chose archery. It soon became my passion.”

Ana readily admits that she enjoys being dependent on herself in competition. Mixed team and team competitions should be enjoyed for other reasons, she adds, explaining that the non-individual disciplines help to connect athletes: “This is wonderful, too.”

Before her European title in 2015, Ana’s best result of the season had come in the mixed team event, when she represented Slovenia at the first European Games in Baku, a competition she says she won’t forget for a long, long time.

“During official practice I shot almost all my arrows in the 10, but on one arrow the string touched my hand and hit the board under the target. It was funny, but also an important warning for the competition,” she recalls.

Ana, shooting for Slovenia with Rok Bizjak in the mixed team event, beat Germany in the first round and Belarus in the quarterfinals. In the semis, Ana and Rok fell short to Georgia, then lost the bronze final against Ukraine’s pair.

“We had to be satisfied with fourth, which is still amazing,” says Ana. “It gave me fresh motivation, setting my mind that I really can do it.”

From the young child who made bows at home and shot arrows for fun – “I felt like Robin Hood,” she says – to the international athlete with podium finishes to her name, Ana has a comprehensive view of the journey she took in archery. As a beginner, the focus was on technique, learning the basics with low poundage to avoid injuries and high-volume shooting to build strength. 

Once at the higher-level, the focus is more mental game, maintaining and improving high scores, says Ana.

“My focus right now is to keep improving my shooting form in practice and at competitions. I am looking forward to the European Archery Championships next year and World Archery Field Championships after that,” says Ana. “Especially as I won the European title this year!”

“My main goal, though, is to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio and maybe win a medal there.”

With over 15 years experience in the sport at still a young age, Ana’s drive to succeed is impressive. Could it be that, to Ana, there is something so addictive about archery?

“Yeah, sure,” Ana replies with confidence! “In archery, we always desire the perfect score. We can shoot one 10 after another, but no-one has scored 1440 or 720 yet. [On the World Archery 1440 or 70 metre rounds.] The feeling that makes us addicted is the one of perfect shooting, when we know that the arrow only lands in one place: The 10 ring.”