Bryony Pitman is a rising star of British archery and heads into 2017 after the best season of her fledgling career. We spoke to her about that great 2016 and a slew of silver medals, missing out on Rio, balancing being brilliant at archery with University, pigging out on Christmas Day and her aims going forward – including Tokyo 2020.
KUDOS: You collected a fair few medals in 2016, capped off in November with an amazing gold medal at the Indoor Archery World Cup in Marrakesh – it must be fair to say you had a very good year?!
Bryony Pitman: 2016 was my most successful year yet; I won six international medals and was fairly successful at national competitions too. Reflecting on the year before and after Marrakech though gave me totally different feelings! I won a lot of silver medals last year starting in Nimes in January – at the time I was proud of each of them and so happy to be shooting in so many finals but after getting double silver at the World Field Championships in September I just wanted to cry. In fact I did cry on my Dad and most of my teammates, haha! After not making the Olympic team all I wanted was a gold medal from the World Fields so I was really disappointed in my performance.
On a happier note I had shot several PBs leading up to Marrakech and it was like no matter what I did I shot 10s, so I had a lot of confidence going into the competition. I shot one point under my PB in qualification there and then had a great string of matches. My goal for this indoor season is to make the World Cup final, so at first I was just happy with a podium finish in Marrakech. It wasn’t until I was waiting for the final that I realised how much winning this one gold medal meant to me and I think that helped me stay relatively calm in the last match. That one competition completely changed my view of 2016 to something I’ll look back on and be more proud of – although I will forever remember it as the year I came second!
Back in November 2015, you wrote a great guest blog for us. For any young sportsperson, finding the motivation to put in the hours of practice can be one of the biggest challenges. Your blog for us was very insightful and shed a lot of light on what it’s like to be a young archer… but what was most striking about it was your honesty – you were very frank about what you deemed to be your poor performances, and your varying degrees of motivation and affection for the sport. Do you still find your motivation – and feelings towards archery – hinges on how well you’re performing at the time, or have you found you’re now able to remain keen and motivate yourself to practice no matter your current form?
I think motivation is always going to fluctuate, sometimes depending on performance and sometimes for no reason at all. Last year one good competition, that was part of a training camp, was all I needed to motivate me for the rest of the season because it made me realise I was still in with a chance of going to Rio. I knew that regardless of how I was shooting as long as I kept training hard I would perform well when I needed to. I didn’t always want to train but I just reminded myself of that one competition and what I could do that year. As for my feelings towards archery, I think I’ve got that more under control now! It’s something I love to do and if it’s not going so well or I get bored with the same distance I just change it up a bit.
Not going to the Olympics was probably the hardest experience I’ve had to deal with in archery, but it gave me more motivation than anything else to train harder and smarter so that I don’t miss out in 2020. Remembering how I felt when I knew I wasn’t going to Rio makes me push myself more now. I think as long as the enjoyment and love for archery is there, it doesn’t matter so much how motivated I feel because I just want to shoot anyway even if it’s only 100 arrows. I always have a day or two off shooting after an international competition just to recover and reset and then I’m not focusing on whether it was a good or bad performance when I next train.
At the time of your blog in 2015, you’d just finished your A-levels. Now you’re at university which must be even more difficult to balance with the archery. How do you manage the balancing act?
I’ve only been at university for one term and I honestly wouldn’t say I managed it at all! I think because I got so used to just shooting, going to the gym and then chilling out in my gap year it was a bit of a shock having to do extra work again. I have a timetable of when I need to study and train and if I stuck to it everything would run really smoothly… but I procrastinate far too much and last term once I was behind I just never caught up. I’ve also learnt that i’m good at talking rubbish and getting a good grade for it so that’s just allowed me to be even lazier! This term I’m determined to stick to my timetable so that I have enough time for everything without being stressed out and leaving it until last minute but I miss several classes for competitions so we’ll see what happens! I would still pick shooting over 100 pages of history reading any day, as long as I’m not failing university it’s no problem – haha!
We couldn’t help but notice a picture you posted on your Twitter account from the gym on CHRISTMAS DAY! That is some level of commitment and dedication. Did you not fancy Christmas Day off and a big lazy pig out?
Haha! My logic there was that if I went to the gym I could pig out more and not feel as guilty as usual! I also got new trainers and gym clothes so I was like an excited little kid desperate to try everything out! I find archery training gets a bit monotonous in the winter since for me it’s just hundreds of arrows at blank bale but I’ve been really enjoying going to the gym so I was more than happy to train there on Christmas Day too. I had Boxing Day off and saw all my family then but it was straight back to a normal training routine after that.
There seems to be a lot of young British talent coming through – Jess Stretton, Lucy Mason, Lizzie Warner and Layla Annison to name just a few. Despite the recent funding blow, you agree British archery is in a good place right now?
Yes it’s definitely in a good place – there are a fair few young archers that have a lot of potential, coming through across both recurve and compound, para and able-bodied archery. We’re definitely heading in the right direction and with the successes of the senior team last year too I think we’re doing a lot better now than in recent years and know how to improve further, despite the lack of funding for the Olympic programme.
How can you top 2016 and what are your goals in 2017? Is it too early to have Tokyo 2020 in your sights?
Fewer silvers and more golds! To start with in 2017 I’m competing in Nimes and Vegas as a senior, all going well at those I’d like to make the Indoor World Cup final. I’m also going to the European Indoor Championships as a junior so I’d quite like that title. Due to the funding cuts I’m not entirely sure what my outdoor season will look like at the moment but I’d like a top 30 senior World Ranking from this season as well as medals at both the Junior and Senior World Championships. I also have my 2015 Junior European Field Champion title to defend this year and if I can shoot enough field competitions I’d love to go to the World Games. If everything works out how it does in my head then it’ll be a very busy year!
I don’t think it’s too soon to have Tokyo 2020 in my sights at all but there is a lot to focus on each year before then, including winning the quota places in 2019. All the training and every competition I attend now are just like stepping stones to a medal in Tokyo.
At just 19 years old Bryony has everything in front of her, and her talent coupled with her brilliant attitude will surely see her continue to make great strides and collect more medals. We’d like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak to us and sincerely wish her all the best for 2017 and beyond.
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