After years of dedication to archery – and a fair few titles along the way – Amy Oliver can now call herself a double world champion. It’s kind of a big deal.
Fifteen Minutes of Fame
It was Andy Warhol, that legend of 60s pop art, who said “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” – more broadly paraphrased today as ‘15 minutes of fame’. It’s fair to say Amy Oliver has already had more than her 15 minutes, though it would be folly to rule out another stint in the spotlight. In the 2012 London Olympic Games, an inspired Amy knocked out the world number one Deepika Kumari amid rapturous scenes at Lord’s cricket ground in North London. Britain was gripped by Olympic fever and Amy’s name was all over the mainstream news and sports outlets, while namesakes on Twitter had to plead for mercy as social media users flocked to find out more about the GB recurve archer.
The 2012 Olympics was an amazing experience and to be on home soil was a once in a lifetime experience. It was so nice to have the support of about 90% of the crowd, alongside my family. Even though all the supporters were cheering for me, I could hear my partner, James, shouting for me and that’s what I focused on to keep me calm.
Introduction to archery
Amy, from Rotherham in South Yorkshire, comes from a family of archers and was introduced to the sport aged 6 by her parents Lynda and Neil. Poignantly, that very session in May 1994 was recorded on video and in 2012 – a matter of months before those 15 minutes of fame at the London Olympics – it was uploaded to YouTube for posterity.
However, that introduction to archery didn’t quite stick – let’s be honest, six year olds have much more frivolous things to be doing – and it wasn’t until she she was 15 that Amy took up archery as a hobby.
After just a year of competitive archery around her local area, Amy was invited to join the Yorkshire Junior Archery Squad, and began to represent Yorkshire in inter-county events, setting a few county records along the way. It is fair to say she got pretty good pretty quickly – a great example of archery’s inclusivity and accessibility. Anyone can have a go at archery, and if you’re good, you can go places.
When I first started archery at age 15, it was definitely a family affair. My brother, Mum, Dad, Auntie and Grandad all shot at the time with my Grandma being a constant supporter. My Auntie Michelle was the one chauffeuring me around the whole of the UK. I remember us daydreaming about representing GB on the Field Team.
And Amy didn’t have to wait all that long for those daydreams to come true.
European Field Champion aged just 19
By the age of 18 Amy was achieving the scores required to qualify for the Great Britain Field squad, and she was duly selected to compete in the World Field Championships in Sweden. Amy finished in the top 16, and it proved a catalyst for future successes. Just a year later, aged 19, she won the UK Masters and, even more impressively, became European Field Champion after beating Italy’s Jessica Tomasi in the final – the first European gold achieved by a female British archer for over 20 years. The progress was remarkable and swift.
At the Europeans in 2007, I never expected to win. All the way through the competition I was just making the cut and my shooting was good enough. I was very inexperienced at this stage and I felt I had nothing to prove. Before my gold medal final, I won silver with my teammates Tracey Hill and Jane Rees. I wore my silver medal under my shooting shirt the following day to remind me that I had already won a medal, to keep my perspective. It definitely worked.
By 2009, the 22 year old Amy had been invited to spend some time with the then GB head coach Peter Suk at the Centre of Excellence at Lilleshall National Sports Centre – the epicentre of GB archery – where she would be examined physically, technically and mentally. It was a searching examination, and one which went well enough for her to receive an invite back the following week. Amy was on the brink of ‘walking through the gate’, as Suk told her, and with the right amount of hard work she would walk through the gate. And walk through it she did.
It was very overwhelming being at Lilleshall under the close eye of Peter Suk. He was very intimidating and after many weeks of training it never seemed to be good enough for him. Although this was a hard time for me, I believe it made me what I am today – hardworking and dedicated. After Peter’s coaching, I achieved my 1300 FITA Star which I was just so pleased with.
Dreams coming true at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games
Amy was now a full-time international archer, taking part in the 2010 World Field Championships in Hungary. Even better still, she represented England at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, winning a brilliant silver medal in the team event alongside Olympians Naomi Folkard and Alison Williamson. They were narrowly beaten in the final by an Indian team featuring Deepika Kumari, who would be so famously vanquished by Amy two years later at London 2012.
Sport is never plain sailing and for Amy the high of London 2012 was followed by a succession of injury issues that hampered her progress. Having missed out on qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympic team, Amy headed to Dublin in September for the World Archery Field Championships where she would take part in both the team and individual events.
In tandem with Tracey Hill and Jessica Nilsson, the British trio stormed to the gold medal with a 51-43 win over Sweden in the final – and Amy’s joy wasn’t about to end there. With emotions running high after the recent passing of her Grandmother – Joyce Kiddy, also a successful international archer – Amy navigated her way to the recurve women’s final where, in a repeat of the 2007 European Field Championships final, she met Italian 2nd seed Jessica Tomasi. And just as it had been nine years prior, Amy prevailed in a close encounter to become double world champion.
During the Team eliminations, it was cold, wet and windy. It was hard work to be able to keep positive through the day. I knew that we would do well because we were all shooting really good and we worked amazingly well together. Thankfully, it was sunny during the Gold Medal Team Final so we didn’t have that to contend with. I was happy to have won the gold with my team mates which helped me stay confident for my own Individual Gold Medal Match. I had been ranked 1st pretty much all the way through the competition so there was a little pressure to maintain that standard. All the way through my final, I was thinking of my Grandma and hoped that she was watching me and giving me strength.
Clinching gold to become double world champion was truly the most fitting and emotional climax imaginable – a wonderful and poignant reward for the years of hard work Amy has put into the sport, and the most perfect way to honour her late Grandmother. Sometimes sport is able to tell the most remarkable of stories – and Amy Oliver’s is one of them.
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