Pippa Britton

Pippa Britton competing at the Beijing Paralympics 2009. Copyright: Graham Bool.

Pippa Britton discusses the importance of visualisation in archery.

Interviewed by Tim Sanders, BBC Blast Reporter.

Raise Your Game: Why did you start archery?

Pippa Britton: I started archery as a social activity. My husband had various hobbies at the time and I wasn't doing anything. He said to me "You need to get out of the house one day a week." I wanted to try some sort of sport and my disability limited me in various ways, for example, golf wasn't really an option. I decided to try my hand at archery, I wasn't very good, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

Profile

Name:
Pippa Britton

Game:
Archery

From:
Vale of Glamorgan

Achievements:

  • Competing at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing
  • Individual bronze medal in 2005 World Para-Archery Championships
  • Team gold medal in 2007 and 2009 World Para-Archery Championships

RYG: How important is mental preparation for archery?

PB: There are people who say it's an 80% mental sport. It's a sport that requires a lot of focus and concentration. You're trying to hit a target approximately the size of an apple and that's 70 metres away from you. So you need to have really good aiming skills, but of course you've got to hold the physical weight of the bow as well and you've got to think of other things, such as the weather. You need to be able to maintain consistency and repeat that for the 72 arrows ranking round.

RYG: So would you say that the mental aspect of archery is actually more important than the physical aspect?

PB: Assuming that you have the physical strength to be able to draw the bow, yes I believe that's true. In its simplest form it's remarkably easy to learn the basics of archery, but then you need mental skill to be able to control each part of your body in detail to be able to perform at your best.

RYG: What support do you receive in terms of mental and physical preparation?

PB: I get a lot of support both through my governing body and also through the Welsh Institute of Sport. I have access to an excellent physiotherapist and massage therapist in Wales, while I work very closely with a psychologist, Katherine Bond, who is employed by ArcheryGB and who I see less often. Despite that, Katherine does a lot of work to help refine your focus and work on the things that make you tick as an archer. Alongside visualisation, working with the psychologist is a key part of my preparation for any large event.

RYG: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

PB: Getting a place to go to the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 was really the fulfilment of a childhood dream. I didn't think I was going to be an archer when I was a child, but I was a very keen swimmer. I always dreamt that I would go to the Olympics as a swimmer. So to attend a Paralympic Games really was a dream come true.

I've been to five World Championships now and I've medalled at each one. The bronze medal in 2005 was really important because it was just before my back surgery. That knocked me out of the sport for six months and at the time I didn't know if I would be able to shoot again. That was a particularly special event for me and a particularly special medal.

Coming back two years later and winning team gold was again a dream come true. And now we've just come back from the Czech Republic and we won gold again, coming very close to the able-bodied world record, so that's a new goal for us to beat.

RYG: Have you had any low points?

PB: Of course. There are always low points in sport. You don't go into sport looking to get second place or third place, you always want first. Whenever you don't manage to get first there's some disappointment.

In Beijing I was knocked out of the competition by my roommate. That was quite difficult because she felt it as keenly as me. While she was very excited with her chance to go on to win a medal, she's such a good friend that she felt very strongly for me. So times like that are intensely low points.

Another time for me was when I had major surgery in 2006. My recovery from that was very long and arduous. There were times then when I thought 'Is it worth putting all that effort in and going through the pain barrier?' But when I came back with a World Championship gold medal in 2007, of course it was all worth while. You need perseverance and determination to get you through those low times.

RYG: How do you bounce back from these low points?

PB: If you're disappointed with your performance or a result you have to look at it logically. In Beijing I shot very well, I shot to my expected score, but my opponent was just better than me on the day. You need to look at the situation very logically and reflect on the positives of your performance, what didn't go so well and what you can learn from that in order to improve for the future.

RYG: What are your goals and ambitions for the future now?

PB: London 2012 of course! I think those are the words on everybody's lips.

I'm also keen to get a place on the Welsh able-bodied team for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Being able to achieve able-bodied qualifying scores would be very exciting for me.

RYG: So how are you preparing to achieve these goals?

PB: When I got back from Beijing I had to have surgery. I've made some technical changes and done a lot of mental work, such as visualisation, simply because physically I was playing catch-up this season.

2009 is the year to submit scores towards selection for the Commonwealth Games team. I've altered the balance of the types of competitions in which I've competed and I think I've done quite well. I've just come back from the World Championships (2009) with team gold and two world records!

RYG: Have you got any advice for people who might want to start archery?

PB: The best place to start is a local club. Most clubs run a complete beginner course. Like most sports it's just a case of going along and trying it out. If you want to take it further, you need to practise a lot. When you've practised a lot and put in some decent scores, then you can start refining your skills even further to hopefully reach the top!

RYG: What do you think has been the most important help for you to get to the top?

PB: The support of my coach, my psychologist, my physiotherapist and my husband. Without the people surrounding me, I couldn't do this at all.


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