Archers hoping to recapture Games medal glory

By Amelia Romanos

Archer Stephen Clifton. Photo / Doug Sherring
Archer Stephen Clifton. Photo / Doug Sherring

The only time archery featured at the Commonwealth Games, New Zealand claimed a place atop the podium. Now a new generation is looking to repeat history as the sport gets its second shot at Games glory nearly 30 years later.

Archery's debut in the Games was in Brisbane in 1982, when New Zealand's Neroli Fairhall turned heads as the first disabled athlete to take part in a Commonwealth Games.

Fairhall went on to stun spectators by taking the gold medal in the women's competition.

A six-strong archery team headed off for Delhi on Monday with Fairhall's success in mind and medals in their sights.

Archery national secretary Carole Hicks said medals were very much a possibility.

Hicks, the director of shooting for the Delhi Games, said the fact that archery was so rarely included in the competition was an extra incentive for athletes.

"It's one of the optional sports, so it's over to the host country to decide which of the assorted optional sports, of which there are many, to select," she said.

"It's in part based on the efforts of the archery governing body in the country and in part the view of the host organising city or country that thinks whether they'll get medals."

Making this year's archery competition more unusual was the fact that the compound discipline was to be used, rather than the recurve discipline, which was used at Olympic Games and at the 1982 Commonwealth Games.

Compound archery differs from the recurve discipline in the sets of pulleys that reduce the load on the string when fully extended. The archer does not need to contend with holding 45-50lb when making the fine adjustments needed for a precise aim.

Hicks said archers tended to specialise with one bow, so, for this year's archers, the opportunity to compete on such a scale was very rare.

"These guys can't compete in the Olympics, it hasn't been included in the Glasgow [Commonwealth] games, so this is very much a one-off for these people," Hicks said.

Shaun Teasdale, 21, leads the New Zealand archery contingent, and is joined in the men's team by fellow Aucklander Stephen Clifton and Invercargill's Tony Waddick.

Hicks, who travelled with Teasdale to the World Cup finals in Scotland this month (September), said his close fourth-place finish in the finals showed he was in contention for a podium position.

"He has shot outstandingly well, particularly in the last month.

"To win the World Cup stage four in Shanghai was an amazing achievement, and then getting to the finals in Edinburgh, that in itself was a spectacular achievement."

Hicks said she was confident the New Zealand women could record some solid results.

"Looking as the World Cup performances, Stephanie Croskery, who is the youngest member of the team, has shot consistently well," Hicks said.

"The other two have been slightly erratic, but the object of the exercise is the Delhi Games, that's what they've been building up to."

New Plymouth's Mandy McGregor and Balclutha's Anne Mitchell join 19-year-old Croskery for the team's event.

The lead-up to Delhi had been made all the more stressful by the ongoing concerns over whether the competition would go ahead, and whether New Zealand athletes would compete, Hicks said.

"The team has worked so hard for the best part of two years now and to have it snatched away from them at a late stage of the proceedings would be really, really sad."

Hicks said she hoped good results at the games would help extend the sport's profile, and help efforts to get it included in future Games.

"It's one of the things we're working towards internationally. To try to get together a stronger Commonwealth archery group working within the international federation to try to get more competition."

New Zealand archery team:
Men: Stephen Clifton, Shaun Teasdale, Tony Waddick.
Women: Stephanie Croskery, Mandy McGregor, Anne Mitchell.

- NZPA

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