- 25 Aug 08, 11:44 AM
It has been a fantastically successful Olympics for Team GB, and as I've watched the cyclists and the sailors enjoying the limelight, I suppose I cannot help reflect on the disappointment that GB's six archers will be returning home empty-handed.
I think the reason Archery GB has been so flat is that expectations were so high, and it is to the credit of our archers that that was so. Alison Williamson, Alan Wills et al have all performed so well on the international stage over the past four years that observers such as myself started to become too confident.
It all started with a bronze for Alison at Athens in 2004, and a fourth place finish for Larry Godfrey. Since then, they have won a number of medals at various international competitions, ranging from world and European championships, to World Cup tournaments. And not for nothing are our women's team ranked second in the world, and the men fifth.
Last year, British archers won a silver medal and two bronze at the World Championships in Leipzig, but alas, it wasn't the Olympic Games, and therefore that fantastic achievement went relatively unreported. Win a medal at the Olympics and suddenly a cascade of journalists are battering the door down for interviews, and for a minority sport like archery, publicity of that kind is a wonderful chance to further raise the profile of the sport.
But the Olympic Games is the gauge by which the success of the sport is measured, and the archers missed their opportunity - though the trio of Alison, Naomi Folkard and Charlotte Burgess provided tremendous theatre in the team tournament when they came so agonisingly close to a medal on the first Sunday. After that, we faded from the scene, and that was a disappointment, of course.
So where do we go from here? Well, as I said, British archery has had a tremendous three years, and looking ahead, there are a good crop of youngsters waiting to break through, and snapping at the heels of the seniors in the countdown to London 2012.
First things first, though, and we will all be cheering on our Paralympic archers in Beijing, and while I should learn the lesson of being too optimistic, I cannot help myself by reporting that we have a great squad and every chance of winning medals.
In the first week of September, the World Field Archery Championship takes place at Llwynypia, near Cardiff, with hundreds of archers from all over the world descending on South Wales for a week long tournament.
We also have one of our compound archers - Nichola Simpson - taking part in the Fita World Cup Grand Final in Lausanne in October, which everyone is looking forward to. It is the third year running (and the World Cup only began in 2006) that a GB archer has made it to the Grand Final (Alan Wills won a bronze medal last year, Alison Williamson finished fourth the year before).
After that, there will be a review of the Olympic experience in October, with officials, coaches and, of course, the archers themselves, all contributing to a far-reaching assessment and analysis of the good and the bad of Beijing. I have little doubt there will be plenty of straight-talking, but constructive, rather than destructive.
Oh, and there is the question of funding. It is extremely premature to speculate one way or t'other about this, because the simple fact is that nobody knows at this stage - though I accept that the lack of medal success makes it an inevitable question.
I don't know the politics of funding, but what I do know is that the setting up of a Performance Unit by Archery GB three years ago, and the consistently improving performances at international level since Athens four years ago, suggests that the long term strategy is on the right lines.
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