The National Tour began its life back in 2009 as the AGB National Series; modelled after the WA World cup events, it was the first set of tournaments in the UK that gave everyone a taste of what it was like to compete at high level international events.
With all the excitement surrounding the 2023 National Tour, we went back to where it all started and spoke to Lucy O’Sullivan and Duncan Busby, the first compound champions about their experience of the very first National Tour finals.
Having already shot at many World cup tournaments I was excited that we now had something similar back home and the opportunity to compete at this type of event was the perfect preparation for any future international competitions.
The original format was a little different to today’s events, as all competitors shot at 70 meters and used the set system during head-to-head matches - much like recurve shooters do now. As changes were made to compound rounds, the National Tour evolved with them and switched to 50m straight score head-to-heads - always keeping up with the latest developments.
As this was the first year, the events attracted a lot of interest and I remember each leg being well subscribed with lots of competition.
Having previous experience of a finals event like this I knew what to expect with regards to the competition format, but what I hadn’t counted on was the atmosphere generated by the crowd at Lilleshall. To see that so many archers had travelled to watch the finals at Lilleshall National Sports Centre was both inspiring and nerve-wracking at the same time; it was one thing to shoot alongside everyone but quite another to perform in front of them.
The spectators quickly got into the spirit of the event, which made the match feel very different from the usual domestic finals I was used to, and it helped me to enjoy this first win even more.
Opposite me in the gold medal match my opponent was my good friend Chris White, and I knew he wasn’t going to give me an easy win. We both fought hard and it was a close run match all the way through, but in the end I managed to achieve enough set points to get to the gold medal.
Winning the first ever National Tour final was a great feeling and the experience it gave me was invaluable when it came to my next international competition. Learning to deal with the nerves taught me a lot about my shooting and I’ll always be grateful to Jon Nott and the rest of the Archery GB team for organising these events. They have undoubtedly helped to raise the level of archery in the UK and have given countless archers the opportunity to experience an event of this magnitude.
I have been competing in archery for many years, but in 2009 there was a change up to the shooting year. The UK calendar went from being all about the premier events, to this brand-new competition called the National Tour. I was 18 years old and went around the country from Jersey, Channel Islands, trying to get my top 4 space and make the finals.
Of course it all came down to the last leg of the year; a cold, windy, drizzly shoot, and with sheer grit and determination I just didn’t quit. To be honest I never quit completions (unless it’s an injury) as flying and staying on the mainland from Jersey costs (it works out at something like £5 for every arrow I shoot) so I make sure I shoot every arrow! But it worked out for me, I made the top 4 for that year. So in the calendar was another shoot and this time in September at Lilleshall for the grand finale.
What I didn’t consider was that it was also my first week starting university, but we tied in the shoot with moving day. My dad and I caught the boat from Jersey with my car and all my stuff ready to move into the house in Nottingham. We dropped off my things, met my new house mates, and drove up to Lilleshall - my home away from home - ready for the shoot.
Practice was on the astroturf and then we were all walked up to the Orangery and was presented to the crowd who were on the balcony. My heart rate was unreal at this point.
Mt first round was against the number one seeded archer, Nicky Hunt, which meant I was the underdog. But I trusted myself and I had my dad behind me keeping me calm. After all the arrows were shot at 70m (compounds used to shoot 70m) we were tied! It wasn’t a one arrow takes it, but a shoot until the time ran out style shoot off, which was very exciting for the crowd. I beat Nicky, and it meant I was through to the final match.
In the gold medal match I went up against one of my junior coaches, Nichola Simpson, an incredible archer and one of the most mentally solid archers I’ve ever met. But I had confidence from the first round and the roar of the crowd behind me (in particular, the Bristolians who could be heard from the other side of Lilleshall), and I managed my second win of the day after shooting my best arrows.
I couldn’t believe it, 18 years old, youngest on the field, an unknown event, starting university the next day, and I had won the National Tour!
The best part was the massive hug from my dad. The second-best part was holding up the ridiculously big cheque on the podium and wondering how I was going to get the bank to accept it. The next issue I would face was how was I going to explain to my new housemates that my big cheque couldn’t be spent on communal takeaways and beer…
If you want to find out what it was like to finally have barebow included in the National Tour, read Helen Brown's story of her journey through the 2022 event.
For more information on the 2023 National Tour, click here.