Archery is still a part of me: The rise of the masters

14 August 2018
Lausanne (SUI)
The line at the world masters championships features Olympic and world medallists.

There’s a different atmosphere around this event than other that carry the world title. It’s a feeling of relaxed camaraderie among the 356 competitors at the first World Archery Masters Championships.

You get the sense that a lot of the field don’t feel they have anything to prove.

John Hartfield and Kevin Barrett, of Great Britain’s Howard Bowmen, are perhaps typical of the many serious club archers here.

“I had some friends who went out to the World Masters [Games] in New Zealand last year. So when I heard this was on, I thought, ‘I want to come out and experience this’,” said Hartfield.

Barrett added that it was the first masters competition the pair had attended.

“I’ve never done an international event before, only seen them on TV,” he said. “I heard about this, told my missus, and went to work. When I got back she said, ‘I’ve booked the hotel’.”

“A lot of people here are more for the fun of it than the competition. But people want to compete as well. We’re here to compete, and to have a good time.” 

Like many of the field here, Barrett is a returner to archery after a long break. 

He shot around 2000 but took a 12-year break when his daughter was born. They were watching archery at the Olympics in 2012 when she asked if she could have a go.

“Archery is a sport where you don’t really compete against other people, you’re competing against yourself,” said Hartfield.

“My mother has now given up, but she’s in her 80s. You can compete, do it socially, whatever. The general age group of UK clubs these days, most of them are older people. It’s not unusual for people to be shooting into their seventies.”

The health benefits of continuing archery in older years are well documented, but you hear less about the benefits of actually competing.

Tom Dielen, World Archery’s secretary general, is one of those still regularly on the tournament line. 

“Like Vegas, most people are here to compete, but also to meet friends, have a good time, talk with other people. There’s not so many serious competitors. But everyone wants to get the best score that they can,” he said.

“In the 70+ recurve men category, four of the five are from Switzerland. They all know each other and they all want to win.” 

Dielen was hopeful that some more former champions could be attracted to Masters competition – although some, perhaps, have a reputation to protect.

“I know some very well-known archers who might like to still be competing, but they are afraid not to win. They don’t like the idea of coming second,” he added.

But many archers in Lausanne have been to the highest levels of competition. Sylvia Harris shot for Great Britain in the early 90s at world championships and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona

She’s not stopped shooting since, but hadn’t shot a masters event before.

“Archery’s a part of me, it’s part of my life. It feels satisfying. And it’s elusive. It’s difficult to master it, to do it well. The searching for it has meaning,” she said.

“I don’t want to give it up. I’ve had bad patches, but I’m still doing it. The beauty of archery is that it’s for all ages and you don’t even need to have two arms to shoot. It can be with you all through your life. From junior, right through to the end, as it were.” 

“Ed Eliason was a bit inspiration for me when I was shooting internationals. He was shooting on the American team in his 50s. So I’d like to go on as long as I can.”  

The USA’s Deborah Ochs has an Olympic bronze medal from Seoul 1988, which she won with the women’s team. That was, of course, done with a recurve, although she is shooting a compound in Lausanne – and it’s not the first time she’s visited the city.

“I’ve been here before, at the ’89 world championships. In fact, that was the last international I shot,” said Ochs. 

“There’s a real enjoyment of being around people of your skill level and your age. You get out there, you’re active and you’re enjoying it.”

For Ochs, a former national champion, you sense that there is still a drive to take another medal.

“Why am I here? Well, it is a world championships,” she said. “I’m excited that there’s some international competitions for masters now. Because I’m still a competitor.”

The first World Archery Masters Championships take place on 14-18 August 2018 in Lausanne, Switzerland.