Fresh from her triumphant exploits at the European Field Championships, where the Archery GB team wore KUDOS kit, 18 year old archer Bryony Pitman opens up about her journey in archery…
As a British field archer my Dad was my inspiration to become an archery champion
I’m Bryony Pitman, an archer for Team GB. I started archery when I was 11 years old, in 2008, and my dream was always to become World and Olympic champion.
I got into archery as my Dad was on the British field archery team and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. I won my first competition 2 months after I started shooting. I used to train with my Dad and seeing him shooting so well gave me so much motivation; I’d think, “Why can’t I be that good already?” Now when we shoot together I’m so close to beating him!
My confidence and archery skills grew when I started international competitions
At the end of 2010 I was invited onto the Junior Olympic Development Squad. I trained with the GB Junior team for one weekend a month at the National Training Centre in Lilleshall. I first made the GB team in 2012 – I shot personal bests at the three international competitions I attended that year, which was a huge confidence boost. Becky Martin, Abbie Fisher and I won our first international medals together at the Junior European Championships in July 2012.
In 2013 I won my first individual international medal at the Junior European Field Championships, where I came 3rd. I also won a place for Great Britain for the Youth Olympic Games at the Junior World Championships at the end of 2013.
The pressure to perform at the highest level of archery competitions led to difficult times
2014 was a pretty awful year for me; I was struggling with some technique issues and couldn’t work out how to fix them. I competed at the Youth Olympic Games and shot a season’s best score in qualification, but got knocked out in the first elimination. Bouncing back from such a bad year was incredibly hard and after the Youth Olympics I took a few weeks completely out of training and then had another couple of weeks just shooting at the club at the weekend. I really needed to put the enjoyment back into my training and stop putting so much pressure on myself to perform.
The 2014/2015 indoor season was alright – I had some really good competitions and some not so good ones. It’s easier to make mistakes indoors and not notice as the distance is a lot closer, so I started the 2015 outdoor season with pretty much the same technical problems as I’d finished the previous season with.
Balancing school with my archery was not easy
This year I was in my last year of A-Levels so it was a very busy time as most of the competitions clashed with my exams. I just missed out on a place for the senior team both for the European Games and the World Championships, finishing 4th at both selection shoots. I was on the junior team for the European Cup and the Junior World Championships. I found splitting my time between school and archery really difficult and lost a lot of motivation for training. I had a lot of good practice sessions but struggled mentally in competitions.
Things changed when I started following the world’s top archers
I performed poorly at both international tournaments at the start of the season but at the beginning of August things took a turn for the better! I was watching some videos of some of the world’s top archers shooting and saw a lot of similarities between all of their techniques, and some things were the same as what I did but I found some new things that I wanted to try. I talked to my Dad about what I wanted to change and listened to his input on the things he thought I should do too.
Working hard on my shots has got my love of archery back
We went to the club the next day and I worked on some changes to see if they felt better and almost instantly the shots felt easier and stronger than ever. Since then I’ve pretty much only worked on those things in my training sessions and my motivation and love for the sport returned pretty quickly. In the middle of August I shot at the last stages of the National Series and had some of the best performances out of the last couple of years. I qualified for the National series final in 3rd place.
The National series final was held in Nottingham at the end of August. I shot pretty well and consistently throughout my matches and ended up 2nd. I won my first lot of prize money that day.
After the national series, my mind was focused on the European Field Championships. I had just over a month to get my technical changes consistent and my mental game strong. I was really excited for the competition, like I was before my first international. I knew I could shoot well enough to win but I wanted to enjoy shooting for the whole week. I set myself score goals for every day of the competition and achieved all of them except one.
I am now Junior European Field archery champion!
I knew after the qualification that the competition would be very close between me and a girl from Italy. I shot the highest semi-final score out of all of the Juniors, Senior men and women recurve archers – that was such a boost for my confidence and showed me the kind of scores I’m capable of. I shot reasonably well in the final and won by a few points. I’m now Junior European Field champion and I know what to work on going forward. I know how well I can shoot and the next step is to do it! I couldn’t have got to where I am though without my coaches, sponsors and UK Sport.
Junior European Field Champion
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