The other end of the hall, part 2: Triumph and disaster

10 February 2018
Las Vegas, NV (USA)
Where else can you see so many of the top people in the sport so close, and get to talk with them afterwards?

Nine in the morning is an undignified time to do anything in Las Vegas. This isn’t the sort of place where things get done at 9h00. But although the casino may be quiet, The Vegas Shoot is already welcoming its second detail of the day.

We’re back in the same rodeo hall, on the same target, same drill as yesterday. 

In the flights divisions, you stay on the same target for the first two days, and are then split into different waves called ‘flights’ to compete against each other on the final Sunday. 

Our recurve wing is next to the junior and cub divisions, and there are probably as many parents as archers here. Next to our target is a compound youth archer called Sydney, who’s recovering from an operation on her leg and is shooting from a chair. 

We collectively act as her scorer and arrow agents, and are as pleased as she is when she puts in a personal best to leap to a fourth place finish in the table. Her parents are ecstatic and thank us almost as much as they praise her. 

I’m not having a great day though. They call us for the first practice end, and the bow feels twice as heavy as yesterday. Uh-oh; I dismiss the scrappy two practice ends as a warm-up, but it turns out to be just the beginning. I don’t know if it’s the jet lag or the long, long days or the exploring the city that’s done me in, but: it’s not happening. 

The worst is the head. 

I can’t get the shots away cleanly – my release doesn't want to behave. The shot feels clumsy. Luckily in Vegas, you’re allowed to change the face whenever you like. At the halfway mark, when the target faces get changed from bottom to top, I rip the horrible face off and put on a fresh one. A new start. Hopefully. 

Yesterday, I was wondering why the target swap happened and why Vegas shoots the ‘bottom line’ first. 

I am grateful to shoot veteran Chris Hill for filling me as to why: it dates from when the shoot was at the Riviera casino and the lighting was so bad that they had spotlights above the target bales to light them.

Since it gave an advantage to shoot at arm height, they made everyone shoot half the rounds one on the bottom and half on top to be fair, but if you shot the top target first, the shadows of the arrows would be all over the bottom target, so naturally most people preferred the top position and most didn't like the bottom. 

So, I’m glad when my shift for today ends. 

I end up finishing on a miserable 203, with one miss. I’m glad for the sympathetic looks from my target mates, who are rapidly becoming my favourite people. But sleep and the practice range are definitely needed. I may have paid the price for a night out last night exploring Vegas’s downtown. I’m not the only one – there's a couple of very high profile archers on lower-than-expected scores who look like they've got an all-night face on.

It does matter. It is important, especially at a big event like this – for many if not most people here, the big archery event of the year. Archery, of course, reveals more to you than you tell yourself.

It tells you when you've neglected your mental and physical health. It's a tool that lets you measure yourself, where you have been, and where you would like to go. There’s a magic to that, and you can sense it on the range. 

As the day winds up, most archers migrate to the two larger halls where the Indoor Archery World Cup Final head-to-head matches are taking place (The Vegas Shoot and the indoor circuit overlap in a slightly complex way).

There’s a couple of arrows in the wall above the hall, which entertains pretty much everybody.

It’s a great spot for archery fans, packed in tight. I speak to Chris Hill again:

“It’s like nothing else. Where else can you see the top people in the sport at such close range, and get to talk with them afterwards? Its a world class field, in a atmosphere that’s like your local club.”

It’s just another part of the Vegas magic. 

The fourth stage and final of the 2017/2018 Indoor Archery World Cup season takes place in Las Vegas, USA on 9-10 February; The Vegas Shoot concludes on 11 February.