At just 17, Lucy Mason is yet another rising star of British archery. Recently crowned world cadet champion, we spoke to Lucy who duly gave us an illuminating insight into life as a successful young archer.

KUDOS: It makes sense to start at the beginning – how did you get into archery and what were those very earliest days like?

Lucy Mason: I first got into archery seven years ago when I was 10 years old. I just tried it at a ‘have-a-go’ session with Xperience Archery where I first met my coach Steph and decided that I quite liked it, so joined Deer Park Archers.

I remember being pretty bad when I first started. I recently saw a photo of myself shooting a few months after I started and it was not a pretty sight – my technique was a mess. I’ve always said since that first session that I wanted to be world number 1, so I went to every training session that I could to get the most amount of coaching possible. I started to get better and entered competitions like the County Championships and then the Indoor National Championships where I began to do pretty well and it just took off from there really. Not that much has changed, I still go to every training session and enter increasingly bigger competitions which I still seem to do pretty well at.

You’re not wrong! So when you began to really excel, how did it affect life as a regular teenager?

As I started to realise that I could be really good at archery I started to prioritise my training and competitions over other aspects of my life like other clubs and socialising. I gradually stopped the other clubs that I was doing in order to shoot more often and I saw my friends out of school a lot less too. My parents always made sure that I did have other things in my life other than just archery when I was a kid though. I’m not the most social person you’ll ever meet so I was and still am perfectly happy going training rather than do ‘normal teenager things’ like going out with friends every night – in fact I’d actually prefer to go training or to a competition. Although I’d always say to any other person doing sport seriously that keeping a good group of friends outside the sport is really important for when you’re not training/competing – and especially if a competition doesn’t go to well and you don’t want to think of the sport for a day or two.

One thing about archery that I especially love is how friendly most of the people are. I’ve got so many good friends that are on the GB team that go to all the same competitions as me and that travel around the world with me. So although archery may have affected me having a ‘normal teenage life’ I really don’t mind because I prefer travelling around the world with friends and also making new friends in different countries while doing the sport that I love.

Your list of achievements – records and titles – is expanding fast. Last year you became the youngest ever archer to win the National Series, on top of European and British titles. After such a great 2016, what were your ambitions for 2017? Did you feel any extra pressure after those successes?

2016 was a really good year for me after winning so much, like the National Series and Junior European championships, however I actually think having such a good last season helped me a lot this season. Unfortunately I got a pretty bad ankle injury at the end of the season so it wasn’t exactly the finish that I wanted and it also meant that my training was affected over the indoor season, so I couldn’t train as much and as well as I wanted to. However I used the 2016 season as motivation to keep pushing.

As great as 2016 was I didn’t want that to be my best season. I still have a lot of titles on my list that I want to cross off – Cadet European champion is just the start of that list. Due to my injury I had a fairly disappointing indoor season, so I knew that I wanted my outdoor season to be a lot better. I ended up with an operation in February which really interrupted my training at the start of this year but I found ways around it so I could still train and beat the success of last year. I guess you could say that there was more pressure this year on the back of last season but I didn’t really feel it that much. When I shoot I tend to forget what I did last season as I don’t see it as that important any more and focus on what I’m doing now instead. My coaches and parents are really great – they know the right amount of pressure that I need in order to shoot my best so they make sure that I don’t go over that level.

So on to this year – you recently won the World Youth Cadet Compound title in Argentina, an amazing achievement. What was that experience like?

Winning the Cadet World Championship title in Argentina was incredible. The conditions were really bad for the whole week we were there – a storm just before the competition meant the practice day was cancelled as the field had flooded and the wind was pretty extreme wind for the whole week. It was the strongest and most challenging wind that I think I’ve ever shot in. I started out well qualifying in 5th place putting me in good standing for the head to heads, and giving me a bit of confidence that I know I am at the top of the field. I also know that I shoot better in head-to-head rounds.

None of my matches I can say were easy by any means – I had to concentrate and focus so hard that I actually gave myself a headache that lasted about two days. However having to try so hard through all of my matches just made it so much more satisfying when got to the gold final, as I knew that I really fought my way there.

One of my most favourite things is shooting on finals fields, because I love the pressure that comes with it. I just find it really exciting, so I couldn’t wait for my match. I knew I was shooting really well on the practice field just before my match and my shots felt stronger than they had ever done before, so I was confident in my ability to win and knew that I would put up a good fight whatever happened. When I actually got onto the stage to shoot I knew that the first shot from each archer would set the pace for the match, so when I put in a 10 as my first shot I knew that I could win. Only at that point did I actually realise where I was and how close I was to achieving my dream as a 10 year old, of winning a world champs. The rest of the match followed from that and I remember as I drew for my last shot knowing that I was about to be world champion – however I knew it had to be a good shot so I still had to concentrate. I shot a 9 to win the match and it was the best feeling ever! If you had told me when I first started shooting, or even at the start of the week, that I would win and become world champion I genuinely would not have believed you, so to realise that I had actually done it was incredible.

The first thing I did after putting my bow down was to ring my parents because I knew that they’d be as happy as I was that I’d just won. Getting my medal on the podium was the best part of it, being able to hear our national anthem because of me was amazing. It was honestly one of the coolest things that I have ever done. This just motivates me to train more to make sure that I have many more national anthems to hear.

After Argentina you went to Mexico to represent GB in the seniors. How did you find shooting at altitude, and do you feel ready now to make the step up into the seniors?

Shooting at altitude is not as weird as I was expecting it to be. The lower air pressure makes your arrows go higher so the first thing I had to do when I got to Mexico was find a new sight mark although it was only a few metres different. Apart from that, I don’t think there was any difference; the shot felt the exactly same.

Although shooting in Mexico was my third time representing the senior GB team, I am under no illusion that the jump from junior competitions to senior competitions is very big. The standard is higher, every single arrow counts and there’s not as much room for error as there is in junior competition where you can get away with the odd 8 here and there. Winning the cadet world championships means I am the best cadet, not the best senior and I recognise that they are very different things. At this point senior competitions are more for experience than anything else. I know that in a senior competition, I can be competitive and win a few matches but I am not at the point where I am expecting to get to a medal match. I am hoping that will come more in 2018/19. Therefore, in terms of taking the step up into the seniors, I feel that I am ready to make the jump, however I am not expecting results just yet – I still have another 3 years of junior titles to win first.

You’re one of a number of seriously talented and decorated young British archers, with whom you must travel and train. You also join forces for team events – does this closeness make it harder or easier when you have to compete against them in individual events?

One of the most hated things on international competitions is when you get another British archer in the individual head-to-heads. Were all good friends and want each other to do well, which obviously can’t happen if we have to shoot against each other in the early rounds. However as much as we hate it, we are all there to win that individual title so you have to ignore that fact that they are your team mate and try and win. I think we all feel the same about that. As we are all good friends the person that gets knocked out will generally stay behind the winner and cheer them on in the subsequent matches which I think is really good as you know that nobody has hard feelings for it, it’s just the way the competition works unfortunately.

We couldn’t help but notice you trained on Christmas Day last year. That is some dedication. Will you be doing the same this year? Surely you can afford to put your feet up on Christmas Day of all days? 

For the past 7 years, I have trained on Christmas day, apart from one year when I had a shoulder injury and could not shoot. Last year I even shot sitting down because I could not stand due to my ankle injury. It has become a kind of tradition in our house and the only time in the year that my dad shoots as the rest of the year he is either coaching or helping me (not that he minds). My mum and sister come along too, they don’t shoot but they don’t mind it, archery is such a big part of our household that it would be weird if we didn’t go to shoot. Apart from Roger (a founder member of Deer Park Archers) nobody else shoots Christmas day so it’s pretty funny and one of my favourite times to train. Also because there are only 3 of us shooting I can get a lot of arrows shot making it a really good training session.

Archery is often a solitary affair in terms of how it’s you and you alone responsible for your shot – but is it fair to say your sort of success can’t be achieved without a strong support network?

Although archery is a very individual sport, if you actually look at it there is a huge support network that actually allows you to win, and I think any top archer will tell you the same thing. I personally have a great support network that I can genuinely say has allowed me to be in the position to win the world championships. They have helped me more so this year than ever. I have a coach at my club, Steph Gill, who has been my coach since I first started shooting 7 years ago. She has been amazing – coaching me to a standard where I am picked for internationals and actually win.

I have a coach when I’m on international trips, Jon Nott, who is also the compound team manager and helps the whole team. He coaches me through all of my head-to-head matches so if it’s all going wrong then I’ve got someone to fix it for me and say the things that I need to hear when I’m shooting so I can concentrate on putting the arrows in the 10. I also have physios Angela and James at Back Into Action, who has made one of the biggest differences this year by fixing my ankle injury just in time for the hard training for the world championships. I also have a nutritionist, Jamie Richards, who helps me monitor my food and tells me the best things to eat when I’m away on trips, training, and have big competitions in this country. I have a strength and conditioning coach too, Ed Archer at Athlete Academy, with whom I have worked for many years, getting me physically stronger and helping with injury prevention. And I have a Chiropractor, Simon Spearing, who makes sure I have good physical alignment and loosens muscles.

One of the most important people is my sports psychologist, Richard Collins at Head For a Win, who I have also worked with for a few years who has helped me with my mental game, making me stronger and fixing any problems that I think I have with my mental game. Mental game is so essential in archery, it can mean the difference between going out in the first round head-to-heads and winning the whole competition. And last but not least, I think to be the most important part of anyone’s support network is their parents. My parents are very supportive and never pushy to train if I want a day’s break – but they always keep me motivated. They never put too much pressure on me and never complain when they have to drive me around the country to competitions then sit in a probably wet field all day while I shoot. I believe that if you don’t have the support of your parents then you’ll find it difficult to really progress in archery as they are such a key element in training, competitions and even just mental and emotional support when it all goes wrong.

And finally – what are your aims for 2018?

My main aim for 2018 is to hopefully have as good a year as I have done this year. In 2018 it’s the turn of the European Championships at both Junior and Senior level which I’d like to do well at. I would also like to get to the National Series Final again, and hopefully do some more stages of the Senior World Cup Series, however that all depends on exams as I have my final A-level exams in 2018 too.

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A massive thank you to Lucy for her time and insight. Already a decorated young archer, we reckon her impressive dedication and mature attitude will ensure she has a future has bright as her recent past. Good luck to Lucy for the rest of the season and beyond – and those A-levels!

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