Taking fresh aim


When it comes to taking up a new sport, Alison Storey has no fear. The two-time personal trainer of the year has represented New Zealand in rowing, beach volleyball and rhythmic gymnastics. And her latest sporting interest is one of the most ancient sports of all; the sport of archery. We find out more about the sport and what got her interested. Alison shares her journey below.

It was because of health issues.  

My personal stores of iron were at an all-time low a couple of years ago. This came on the back of a seemingly lifelong battle with maintaining adequate amounts of this vital mineral.

In layman’s terms, iron attaches to red blood cells to help distribute oxygen to working muscles. Without decent levels of the stuff; lethargy, fatigue and the need for Nana naps is the entirely inconvenient and somewhat debilitating norm. Any sport of a high intensity would use up that meagre energy and so running, cycling, tramping and generally fun stuff was pulled back by necessity. Boring.

In danger of having a half empty rather than half full glass attitude to this issue, a list of Olympic sports was hastily drawn up to see what sporting pursuits were in fact possible for me. Sports that get the heart rate up past about 130 beats per minute during training got a line through them which left archery, dressage, diving, golf, shooting, and some sailing events. Living in Cambridge, anything on the ocean had to go, which limited the sailing options. Being practically allergic to cold water saw diving get the flick, golf was accessible but somewhat costly, and the idea of training an animal to high performance as well as oneself was daunting to say the least. This left shooting and archery. Both are closed chain skill based sports with a high component of mental performance, almost no strain on the ticker and a moderate need for strength endurance.

So now armed with some sports I could participate in, I was pleased to discover that finding clubs for both shooting and archery in Waikato was easy, with almost instant and enthusiastic replies to inquiries and support, with introductory coaching readily available.  Very comforting start.  

Now if you’ve never tried shooting a rifle from a prone position, you really should put it on your bucket list.  Feeling like a sniper and hitting a bullseye more than 100 yards away is an incredibly satisfying thing. The unassuming folk at the Otorohanga Rifle club, (who call themselves Lead Slingers) couldn’t have been more welcoming or accommodating in letting me have a (thoroughly supervised) crack at this awesome sport.

Next was archery, which like shooting has several versions.  Field archery is based on hunting, where archers go into the bush and shoot at either bullseye type targets or 3D plastic animals.

Target archery is the version at the Olympics. The televised edition does this discipline a complete disservice. It may look huge on screen however the full target face is actually only just more than a metre square and the gold 10 point ring is only the size of a CD, which at 70m becomes the size of a mere drawing pin. Target archery arrows travel at an impressive 185 km/hr; a reminder of its status as the most ancient and deadly of weapons. (So why people walking through parks where archery is taking place are happy to stroll along behind the targets is a complete mystery).

Both Target and Field archery can be competed in with a Recurve or a Compound bow, although only Recurve bows are used at the Olympics, with Compound bows being an option at the Paralympics.
There is also a long bow, a bare bow, which as it implies uses no sighting aids, and a cross bow if you think that’s not variety enough.

There are field and target archery clubs in Waikato and many archers in New Zealand, and in fact internationally, do both versions of the sport at some point. The dominant clubs in Waikato are River Glade archers in Cobham Drive, Hamilton and Lakeview Archers in Horahora Road, Cambridge.

The National Archery Championships take place in January of each year, attract a decent portion of the more than 630 members of Archery New Zealand, and admirably are into their 74th year.  

Several Waikato archers got in the medal mix last month, notably Tony Denton of Lakeview Archers winning the Champion of Champions trophy for Open Compound, and Carl Jones, also of Lakeview Archers who dominated the junior men’s compound division.

In a movie worthy story, Ken Upritchard of Christchurch came out of 12 years in retirement to win the silver medal in the Open Men’s recurve (Olympic style) division. Upritchard was New Zealand’s last Olympian in archery in 2004 and has made a return to the sport in light of the World Masters Games in New Zealand in April – further proof that the sport is ageless and the skill set may be somewhat like riding a bike.

Like all sports, time and a commitment to practice are vital ingredients, however a few things set archery apart as a sport for all. There are no height, weight, physical characteristic, gender or age barriers to compete at any level of the sport, and it’s as social or competitive as anyone would like it to be. It also doesn’t affect your iron stores.

Perhaps the standout characteristic of archery as a sport is that few things are more satisfying than using a combination of skill, control and calm focus to get a thin, small arrow to accurately fly at 185kmph over 70m to hit a circle the size of a drawing pin right in the middle.


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