First world masters championships unites archers with common purpose

29 August 2018
Lausanne (SUI)
The first World Archery Masters Championships were held in 2018.

The inaugural championship for archers aged 40 years and over took place at the World Archery Excellence Centre and venues across the Olympic Capital of Lausanne in August 2018. 

Friendships that developed throughout the week were sealed in a parade of medals at the Centre’s outdoor field to close the tournament. Some 360 archers from 44 countries turned up for the World Archery Masters Championships – with an emphasis on the word compete.

The health benefits, both physical and mental, of continuing with archery (or any sport) after the age of 40 are obvious and well-known, but you don’t hear quite so much about the benefits of competitiveness.

With most world competitions trending towards younger athletes, on the whole, it’s not reflective of archery’s full demographic; there are archers of all ages enjoying the sport in tournaments and clubs worldwide.

Dick Smith of the USA, who won a compound title in Lausanne, summed up a lot of people’s thoughts.

“It gives everybody a really good chance to showcase how good they are,” he said. 

“It’s not like when you’re over 40 it’s done. We all still shoot a lot, we all love it, and we all still want to get in there and compete. And also just have a good time with each other. Everybody helps each other, and we just keep doing it.” 

Like several archers at the event, Smith combined his trip to the world masters with a family holiday to Switzerland.

With a built-in sightseeing day without competition on Friday, there was more of an emphasis on making things a holiday than most international events, and archers were seen enjoying the sights and hospitality all over the city – and spending money, too.

First indications are that the event brought over 500,000 CHF in economic impact to the city, making future hosting opportunities an attractive proposition.

Many archers expressed a sentiment that older archers can be overlooked in competition.

“I’ve actually enjoyed this more than national competitions,” said Tammy Milsom of the UK.

“There’s always such a focus on the young ones coming through. It’s another window for our age group, people who take their shooting seriously, but they might be ‘past it’ in the eyes of [some].”

“People are still really committed, and that’s what often gets overlooked.”

Another Brit, Daniel Sims, added: “It gives the older person a chance to show how they can excel. I know I’m probably not going to win. But it gives us a showcase.” 

This was echoed by Kaori Mitsuyama, part of a small but talented group of recurve archers attending from Japan. A field specialist, she enjoyed being among her peers. 

“Masters is not so well known in Japan, and there is no such thing as a field masters competition. It’s very important to have fun and enjoy things with your age group. The most important thing is the atmosphere. People are here to meet each other, to be friendly, but also to compete.”

Mitsuyama swept the board of titles in indoor, outdoor and field disciplines in the non-championship 40+ category.

In the official World Archery Championship categories, for archers age 50-59, there was no shortage of quality, either.

The standards set by the very top competitors matched the best senior internationals, none more so that Frenchman Eric Libert, who completed a clean sweep of the top recurve titles on Saturday with a field score that would likely have placed him in the top 10 at the last World Archery Field Championship, among the professionals. 

The 57-year-old doctor played down his own achievements, but was pleased to spread the word.

“I think that people have been very happy with the event, very enthusiastic, keen to share it with others, and to attend the next one,” he said.

“It was a great first experience for the organisers as well as the athletes, and it will probably give more impulse for other masters archers who weren’t here this time to attend the next one.”

Many archers were keen to sign up for another edition.

“It gives us a purpose,” said the USA’s Barry Watson. “I’d certainly do it again. I’d shoot with every one of the archers I shot with [here] again.”

There were a few teething problems. The multiple venues and dozens of categories resulted in long days that would have tested much younger archers.

But at the end, the masters was defined more by common purpose than age – and for many, a deep love for the sport. 

Marjan Podrzaj of Slovenia, well-known in the archery world and a veteran of “100s and 100s” of competitions, entered Lausanne shooting three types of bow: recurve outdoors, barebow for field and compound indoors.

“Archery is a big family, and this is our playground. We are a special kind of people. Only we really understand each other,” he said. 

“[For young people] it’s easier to play games and go on the internet. I respect every young archer who continues with archery.”

“But look at the people here. They have fun but, at the same time, they must be serious to hit something. We still play with the oldest human invention. Nothing else comes close.”

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