- 25 Jun 08, 11:07 AM
So we now know the identity of the six archers who will be flying the flag for Britain at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
In case you missed it, the six are: Simon Terry, Alan Wills and Larry Godfrey in the men's tournament, and Alison Williamson, Charlotte Burgess and Naomi Folkard in the women's.
To a certain extent, there was a sense of inevitablity about it all. With every respect to the other hopefuls, I for one never felt that the list would be anything other than the six names now on it.
It was not just about the qualifying process, it was about consistency over a long period, and all six Beijing-bound archers have been the mainstay of Team GB for the past couple of years.
Once the six Olympic archers had been confirmed, there was no punching the air, screaming with relief or falling to the floor in emotion. But hey, our archers are made of much more sturdier stuff!
Mind you, they needed to be - Lilleshall over two days last week was wet, and then windy.
Afterwards, the overriding sense was of relief that the process was over, though of course they were each absolutely thrilled to have made the team.
Pride of place must go to Alison Williamson. Most of us mere mortals dream of taking part in just one Olympic Games, so to qualify for a fifth is a fantastic achievement.
Alison was a bronze-medal winner in Athens, and while some people could have rested on their laurels, she told me her motivation for Beijing is that she is consistently setting herself new standards and targets. That is why she is still competing at the top level of international sport after 18 years.
Her first Olympics was at Barcelona in 1992 - the year that Simon Terry won two bronze medals as a fresh-faced 18 year old. It has been well documented that he then drifted away from the sport, only to dust his bow and arrows down four years ago, to see if he still had it in him. Well, didn't he just.
The natural aptitude had clearly never deserted him, but there was plenty of fine-tuning to be done if he wanted to compete again at the top level. To his credit, he's worked his proverbials off since he realised that reaching the Promised Land was not just a daydream - and qualifying for a second Olympics 16 years after his first is some achievement.
So the inevitable question, which I have been asked countlessly this week, is can Britain win any medals? And the answer is simple: yes we can.
All six British archers going to Beijing are genuinely good enough to be competitive in the individual tournaments.
Of the men, Simon's already been there and done it, and was fourth at last year's World Championships; Larry came fourth in Athens, so knows what it takes at that level, while Alan proved his mettle with bronze at the World Championships last year, and at the World Cup Grand Final.
In the women's event, Alison is arguably the most experienced archer in the competition, Charlotte is more than capable of holding her own, and keep an eye on Naomi, who is an outstanding archer with enormous talent, and always performs consistently.
This is Naomi's second Olympics, so she knows what to expect, and I would not be in the least surprised if she progressed, in her own quiet way, through to the latter stages of the tournament at least.
But, without wanting to put any undue pressure of expectation on our archers, it is in the two team events that they really have a chance.
The three lads, and the three ladies are not just consitent performers in international team competitions over the past couple of years, but very successful too. Both teams have a great bond and team spirit, and if all falls into place, they will be there or thereabouts for sure.
And before I sign off, a special mention for the two archers who missed out in the final qualifying tournament. Tom Barber is just 16, and already a regular member of the international squad, and if he were to be called up he would let no one down. He is an extremely level-headed young man, and he has a great future ahead of him as an international archer.
So does Emma Downie. She only took up the sport six years ago, and has done amazingly well to get so far so quickly, which says much about her attitude, and the coaching of GB head coach Peter Suk over the past couple of years.
So it's now countdown Beijing. This week the archers are in Boe, France, for the fourth and final leg of the FITA World Cup tournament.
None of our recurves are likely to feature in the Grand Final, but with the Olympics beckoning, this is a great chance to start putting the final touches to their preparations.
On a personal note, I congratulate all six of the archers who have made it to the Olympics. A fantastic effort by all of them.
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