A week of potatoes
I spent last week in Poland for the 4th and final World Cup of 2014. Because the US determines team slots based on the following years results (and then a rolling ranking after that), I hoped (but in all honesty) didn’t expect to get a chance to represent the US at one of this year’s World Cups. I felt extremely lucky when I found out I was going, so I told myself whatever happened there I would be happy I was there.
I arrived on Sunday, with most of the recurve team, and my bow arrived with me! As a group we went to unofficial practice first thing the next morning. It was great to get out on the field and shoot, after spending the previous day in the air. I was feeling good and drilling shots, so I kept thinking jet lag, what? By afternoon the practice field was swarming with more and more archers, as many Europeans had arrived that morning, so the US team decided to call it quits and head back to the hotel.
The rest of our teammates arrived that evening, so we were all there ready to go the next day for official practice. Recurve got the morning slot, while us compounders had to wait until afternoon (same as qualification would go). I felt pretty tired all day, and it reflected in my shooting. Things definitely didn’t go as well as the day before, so I had to remind myself that whatever happened the next few days I would be happy because I was there representing my country.
Qualification the next day started with a bang (I shot a perfect 60!). Unfortunately, I felt a little off all day, so I wasn’t able to keep that same pace up. I knew I was shooting “ok,” I just didn’t feel like I was shooting great. I was having some misreads here and there, as I found the wind to be a little tricky to read on the field. At the half I saw I had shot a 348, which I was happy with, but knew I had a lot of room for improvement. My goal was to qualify top 8, so I would get a bye into the 1/24 round, and I wasn’t sure this score would do it.
As we took our 15 minute break, I realized how much I LOVED shooting a single line (just like we had done at Versus in Mexico). I’m someone who likes to get into a rhythm and shooting a double line makes this tricky. There is so much time spent just waiting around that I tend to have trouble staying mentally on top for an entire round. Around this time, I also heard my name over the loudspeaker, so I was hoping that meant I was in the top 8 after all.
The second half started just over an hour after we had begun qualification, and I was hoping to improve upon my first half score. Instead of opening with another 60, however, I opened with a 57 and wasn’t too happy. I tried to refocus and pull it together, so I could save my second half score. With one end left, Christie and I were reflecting on being done for the day so quickly, when she told me that I was currently the top American female, meaning if I stayed there, I’d be shooting more later in the day for mixed team. I honestly didn’t believe her, knowing that was Erika’s spot, and struggled on the last end, shooting another 57.
In the end, I was able to shoot another 348 (tying my score from the first half), and I was in fact the top qualifying woman for the US. I had no idea where I had finished up overall, and then someone told me I was in 2nd, one point out of the lead! What? I didn’t believe them and had to check the results for myself. Yes, a 696 was a personal best in competition for me, but I didn’t expect that to do THAT well on the World scene.
Fellow Mathews shooter, Braden, was the top seed for the US men, so we’d be shooting the mixed team together. We made it through all the rounds that evening, with him only dropping one point on the very last end of the last match! Winning all our matches put us into the gold medal match on Sunday, so I knew I was guaranteed at least one medal!
The next day was individual eliminations, where I shot ok, but I couldn’t seem to put together a full 5 solid ends. I made it all the way to the 1/4th round meaning all I had to do was win one more match to make the medal matches, which had been my goal. Unfortunately, I ran into a competitor having a GREAT day. She was a low seed and “should” have lost her first match. However, she shot nothing below a 147 all day, steam rolling past me and her next opponent right into the gold medal match. I couldn’t be upset losing, even though I really wanted to make an individual medal match, because I knew 1)she had shot really well and 2)I had not shot as well as I know I can.
Team day was the next day, so I got to shoot with Erika and Christie (with Easter being our personal photographer), where we had similar success to my mixed team, winning all of our matches to make it to the gold medal match (including missing a world record by 1 point and shooting the highest score on the field; men or women team). We then decided to explore a little in the city center, since we had the afternoon off.
This brings me to Saturday, the day for compound finals. I would be shooting with the girl’s team in the morning, and then shooting with Braden for mixed team in the afternoon. Even though we tried to get a feel for the wind, watching the match before us, our women’s team struggled a little off the bat. One thing I noticed at this event is how much the three of us fed off one another. We either all shot just ok or we all shot really well. This had me worried after the first end, when I knew we weren’t all in top form. Lucky for us the Russian team also seem to have some troubles, and we were able to pull out the victory, giving me my first medal (and gold at that!).
After injuring himself the day before, Braden was sure if he was going to be able to shoot the mixed team round. Unfortunately, there is no rule allowing a substitution, even for medical reasons once shooting has begun. Luckily, we were able to find someone to let him borrow a strap on wrist release, so he could draw the bow back. We both agreed that is was going to be my job to carry the team, since he obviously couldn’t shoot his best due to the injury. We went out there not knowing what to expect out of India, and lucky for me, Braden hit a 10 on every single shot. No, he didn’t get a bunch of Xs like he normally would, but he did not miss the 10 ring once in our match and we could breath on our last arrows. This was amazing to witness both as a teammate, but also as a competitor myself.
Sunday was finals for recurve, and while none of the US team had qualified, we watched the morning session before taking a walk through the local zoo. Then Monday was time to say goodbye and fly home. Next stop: Texas Shootout.