October 26, 2020

Improve Your Game - What it takes to be on the Olympic squad

It takes a huge amount of work and sacrifice to be on the national archery squads. The Olympic squad's Yulia Larkins tells us about some of her latest challenges.

"When I started archery it became clear to me that this was a sport I wanted to be very good at and to see how far I could take it. It also became clear that, aged 35 at the time, I was behind the curve of archers that had been shooting for many years - I needed to put serious hours in. I did this after work and at weekends as much as possible, carrying my equipment in all weather conditions through the London tube and train networks.

"Friends and family would help me get to tournaments and now I am lucky to have a great support network in my parents and partner of two years.

"When I found myself with the opportunity to train at Lilleshall with the Olympic squad, where time and commitment is key - not age, the need to train moved to a whole new level. Living and working in London has been a real challenge, with my partner and I driving hundreds of miles and finding Airbnb and cheap hotels in Shropshire almost every long weekend.

"When Covid-19 came along, the training took a hit for a short while. As soon as the Archery GB guidelines kicked in we found a very supportive club, The High Weald Archery Club in East Sussex, and again put in many miles just to train. What Covid-19 has taught us is that London is not the best place for us to be and if I was to put in the archery training hours, the working day and travel also had to go.

"Within the last few weeks my new life has just begun. We have taken residence up in Shropshire, just 25 minutes from Lilleshall and 15 minutes from the excellent ranges at Bowbrook Archers, our new club. I have finished the handover of my job, having resigned one month ago. This alone is a big removal of stress.

"With the help of Richard Priestman, the AGB Head Coach, and having access to the specialist team of people that support the squad, the fitness- and process-orientated training has certainly seen my shooting improve. With these changes in life I now have the opportunity to say 'thank you' to them, and we will see how it goes as I can begin relaxing about everything else and focus on the necessarily structured routine.

"One of the questions asked for this article was: 'How do you manage the pressures and expectations that you place on yourself in archery?' Well, I am now in the best position possible to achieve to the best of my ability as I think of them as ‘goals and ambitions' and not ‘pressures and expectations'."

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