25 is the new 50!!?? – By Wendie King12th February 2021
Those of you that know me will know how I bang on and on about masters archery competition, or the lack of it, in this country! You will probably know the moto, on my Aim4sport T-shirt, is W.W.W.25 (Wonder Woman Wendie , 25 ….standing for my year of age, in a mental capacity)
I, like most over 50’s, feel very young at heart and am shocked to see a middle aged woman staring back at me from the mirror, when I still feel the same as I did 25 years ago and instead my daughter looks just how, I feel, I still should!!
So here I go again……. but hopefully with a positive outcome for all archers over 50 years young.
Over these strange times, when lots of us have had, just a little, too much time on our hands, and our facilities are closed, so keeping the passion for our sport alive is tough, I started to consider how I could influence, leave a mark, in Archery, when I can no longer shoot.
Masters archery is a grossly neglected category of our sport in this country, basically ignored by our governing body, in what is meant to be a “fully inclusive sport” and when huge numbers of the country’s general membership is made up of the over 50’s.
So what is our part, as mature archers, in archery? Just making up the numbers? Paying to enter competitions to enable high class archers to compete, with no chance of winning or being recognised within your own age category. (Such as the national tour, where, even if, by some fluke I won, I wouldn’t be offered a place on the GB squad, at my age, and frankly, wouldn’t want it!)
Understandably, in some respects, AGB’s focus is on the development of the ‘elite archer’ and their need to achieve medals at major events to be granted government funding etc etc…… but and the big BUT is, as we are a membership lead organisation what support is there for anyone else, if you don’t fit into the “Elite category?”
Even if you’re fortunate enough to be just below elite and be selected to represent England, apart from receiving a shirt, free of charge and your home nations/ euronations competition entry fee paid, you are expected to fund your travel and hotel accommodation and anything else that you need.
Juniors are allowed to compete, quite rightly, in their own age categories, at shorter distances, representative of their growing strength, to enable them to gradually shoot higher poundage bows, safely, over a period of years so as to avoid injury……. So why, at the other end of our archery careers, when we are no longer ‘elite’ or working towards “elite”, does the same not apply?
Simple answer ? ….. in pretty much every other country, it does!!!
In most other countries masters have their own competitions right up to National Championships and everything else in between.
They compete as an age group, indoors at the same distances as seniors, and juniors, with the exception of being allowed to choose to shoot at a single spot at 18m, if you so desire.
Outside both men and women shoot a WA720 at 60m, (not against the opposition sex!) and complete their head to heads at the same.
WA 1440 for men is shot at 70m and 60m on a 122cm face and 50m and 30m on an 80cm face and ladies 60m, 50m on the large, 40m and 30m on the smaller. These are WORLD ARCHERY recognised rounds, and, as such, have world records for each of them. So, again, why are they not encouraged in the U.K?
The reduction in maximum distance gives one the choice to make the difference between shooting comfortably for 144 arrows AND scoring them all AND having good groups….. Or struggling to hit the boss at the farthest distance, peppering the target AND being in agony, struggling to pull back your 48lb limbs after lunch and feeling it for the next week, even if you manage to come away without an injury!!
Surely, at this stage in our lives, although we like to still be competitive, Archery is about enjoying the company, having fun and remaining fit, without damaging our bodies, which now take forever to repair themselves, if they ever truly do!
My wonderful experiences, outside of the U.K , in Masters events, have inspired me to want to bottle the amazing feeling of comradery, passion for the sport and proud sense of still being able to be competitive, at my age. This, along with forming strong bonds with many archers from around the world, supporting each other and sharing in the delights of achievement but mostly enjoying the passion we share for our sport, together, whilst being able to, proudly, actually represent your country!
At the two major events that I have had the pleasure of attending, the first ever Masters World Championships for Archery in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2018 and my first European Masters games in Turin, Italy in 2019.
Most other countries from around the world had archers attending in large groups/ teams. The archers were allowed to wear their country’s team shirt and they were proud to be representing their country whereas the small number of British archers that attended were told they could not represent AGB or wear their emblem, in case, god forbid, someone thought we were part of ‘the squad!”
But nevertheless we got there………..
Lausanne was a first, an Archery only World Masters event held at the archery World Excellence centre in Switzerland. There my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of international competition. Nothing like Lausanne had been organised before but, I was soon to discover, archery had been a part of masters games, held all over the world, for a number of years and whilst talking to the lady archers on my indoor target, in Lausanne, I realised that the masters category was included at most competitions throughout the world even in the smallest local competition, it was just an accepted fact and often the numbers of masters would outweigh the seniors!
In Lausanne we competed both indoors, a combined WA 25m,18m indoor round as well as the WA 720 masters 60m qualifying round and head to head. There was also a field event, which I had chosen not to enter but regretted this when I had spoken to the returning archers.
I was fortunate to meet a wonderful, multilingual, Italian archer, Annamaria, in Lausanne, we hit it off straight away and have remained firm friends since then, even visiting her and her husband, Matt, in Rome and staying at their home whilst competing in a large indoor event in Rome, where I won the master ladies gold medal!
It was Annamaria who encouraged me to enter the Masters games 2019, which would be held in Turin and also the Italian challenge which was held in Rimini at the beginning of 2020.
The games in Turin were fabulous, there was an opening ceremony/ procession which compared with the Olympics! 3000 athletes all over 50……we enjoyed our ten days there immensely! (Please see my previous article on the games for more info if needed?)
In February 2020 we attended the Italian challenge in Rimini, with some Italian friends,this is a team event, one male one female of the same bow style and ….guess what……they have a masters category!!
Unfortunately I became unwell during the night before the competition and was unable to enter, very disappointing. We attended on the day following, which was the Italian National Indoor Championships and guess what….. there was a masters category……. do you see a pattern?
Some common misconceptions about Masters competition;
- You can only be a master when you’re old!……. ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!, 50 is the start of the age
- category and that is not old! (After that, in larger competitions,the group can be subdivided every 10 years 60+ and 70+ you can enter the age group below your age, but not above)
- You should only shoot in a masters category if “you are not good enough” to compete against younger archers……… RUBBISH!!! One can shoot in, what is known, in World Archery, as the “senior category,” because that is below your age but will have to shoot the longer distances and compete against “Elite”, full time athletes!! Can you do this accurately enough to not get frustrated? Comfortably enough to complete the round and not injure yourself?
- You should only compete in masters events when you are no longer seriously competitive!……. NO!!!!!! Masters archers are as serious about competing as anyone else but, it seems, given their life experiences, realise that, although winning is very important, being amongst archers that are of a similar age and mindset is far more fun and rewarding.
So my question is…..if there were events arranged for masters only or masters categories within other competitions would you enter them, including postal leagues??
I know that this will start small but I’m hopeful that it will grow to be the recognised category that it should be, given time and the realisation of the realistic goals that can be achieved by, not only the Elite few, but by the majority of the senior archery membership in this country.
Thanks for reading and watch this space….for more info
Hope to see you soon, on the shooting line (zimmer frames welcome!!)