Farewell Nova Scotia-Final Thoughts from Archery

In the waning moments of the 2011 Canada Games, the mood has struck to attempt to put the week in perspective.

Having been at the Archery Event all of Week Two, this final day brings many thoughts and emotions.

When all is said and done, the event, the archers, the volunteers, the officials, all are tired and probably glad to be able to soon return to our normal everday lives.  That is, even though this week has been in a word; FABULOUS.

However,  it is not without some sadness that we now return to our families and jobs, or schools across this great country.

And what a country this is. 

For the last week, the youth of the nation, in this case the archers have come together in what is truly a celebration of our sport and this country./

We’ve watched as young people and their coaches and chaperones have shared, cried, and laughed together.

We have seen performances that shattered records and fallen short of expectations.  We have been together on the field of play and in the cafterias.  Made friends and aquaintences that we will not forget, even though we may never see each other again.

What a country this is.

To Young men and women compete against each other, giving no quarter on the field, but being able to embrace each other, to congratulate and console each other when it is over.  The young man from Quebec, so dsiappointed in his own performance, yet able to sit with his friend from Ontario, so shortly after and revel in the firend’s success.

To see the coach of the Quebec Team step up on the podium during a break in the medal presentations and entertain the crowd, jigging to `Barret`s Privateers”,  with everyone singing along and breaking into loud applause when he was done.

What a country this is.

As Canadians, we share many things in common, as well as having our differences in language, culture, dialects, and customs.  But it is the joy of the similarities that bind us.

We have fun.  We have fun together.  Far removed from the politics and politicians, ….we dance.  We sing.  We celebrate together. We play, we challenge each other to step up and be better.

What a country this is.

The Canada Games are one of the things that make this country great.

The late Peter Gzowski had a contest on his radio show ‘Morningside.’  The purpose was to complete the phrase ‘As Canadian as possible……’   The winning submission, in typical Canadian self-deprecation was ‘As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.’ 

Well,  Mr. Gzowski, under the circumstances, the Canada Games allows us to be as Canadian as possible. 

Young people are the future, but they are also the present.  They have shown us dignity in defeat and grace in victory.  They have shown us the drive to excel, the will to win and the ability to rise above the differneces.

There are many in Canada who would do well to take a lesson from them.

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Ontario`s Perkins smashes records in Archery

Christopher Perkins, an 18 year old archer representing Ontario at the 2011 Canada Games has set a new Canadian record for Junior Men`s Compound.    Perkins shot an amazing 595 out of a possible 600, a score that is also a Canada Games record on Wednesday.  The Archery Event is being held at Sackville High School. 

After two days of qualification rounds, Perkins sits atop the Men`s  Compound Division, with a total of 1185 out of 1200 possible points. 

During the first 30 arrow round of the second day,s shooting, Perkins remained perfect, or what the archers refer to as ” clean” ,  finally missing by a hair on the third arrow of the ninth end.   He dropped another point on his last arrow of the final end of that round to score an outrstanding 298 out 300. 

Many in the crowd of spectators were pulling for him.  Even supporters of other teams watched the huge projection screens when the running scores were showing his progress.  The string of 30s (the total score achievable in each end) continued, and much like a baseball crowd watching a pitcher close in on a no-hitter, the collective breath was held, each time Chris loosed an arrow.

The relief of those watching was palpable, each time the projectile slammed into the very centre of the target, a ring about the size of a dime, 18 metres away. 

Finally, on the last arrow of the ninth end, perfection slipped away, but excellence remained.  By the end of shooting, a new record was posted.

Afterward, Perkins was pleased but also keeping his feet on the ground.

“It was a good day, no question.  But, anything can still happen and tommorrow is the next thing on the list.  Eliminations start and I need to continuew to shoot well.  There are a lot of good shooters here. ” he said, with typical understatement.

Maybe so, but only one holds that new Canadian Record,  Mr. Perkins.

Archers Complete Qualification Rounds

Recurve Archers took the stage first on Wednesday at Sackville High School for the second round of Qualifications at the Canada Games.  Compound Archers were given the opportuntity for a bit longer sleep, reversing what happened on Tuesday when they had to be up with the birds.

With two Qualifying Rounds complete  Brendan Sherridan from Alberta is atop the¸Leaderboard in Men’s Recurve.  In second is Saskatchewan archer Conner Sorley, followed by Hyungjin Lee of Ontario in third.  On Wednesday, after 60 more arrows, Sheridan maintained his position. 

`I think it was a pretty good day, not everything went exactly as planned, but I was able to make the corrections when I needed to and overall it went pretty well,` the Alberta shooter said.

Virginie Chenier of Quebec has the top position in Women`s Recurve, with Caitlyn Schleppe of Alberta in second and Ontario`s Jordan Sequillion sitting third.

In the Men`s and Women`s Compound, shot in the afternoon on Wednesday,  Ontario`s Christopher Perkins, holding onto the top position from Tuesday faced stiff competition, and was looking to hold first place in the Mens, and Quebec`s Camille Bouffard-Demers was first amongst the women.

Miicheal Kupchanko from Saskatchewan and Simon Rousseau of Quebec sit second third respectively on the Men’s Compound side of the shooting line, while Team B.C.’s Sydney Watson and Jenah Smith of Saskatchewan occupy the  second and third spots on the Women’s side.

Perkins was perfect through 8 ends, finally dropping a point on his lasrt arrow of the 9th end, and then his last arrow of the final end to finish the first half with an amazing 298 0ut a possible 300.

Perkins, although disppointed at not being able to keep the string going, was philosophical.

“Those two (shots) kind of got away on me.  It would have been nice but 298 is a good score.` he said.

In fact, the two shots that `got away“ were not terribly far out; Perkins arrow hit less than a centimetre from the centre scoring ring each time. 

Following the completion of the Qualification Round, the archers will be assigned spots on the Elimination Grid, where they will shoot head to head , with the winners of each match moving through to continue toward the Medal matches.

Elimination matches are 12 arrows, each archer shooting 3 arrows per end, with the goal of achieving as close to a perfect score of 120 as possible.

Where the Qualification Round is more of a marathon, with archers having to shoot a total of 120 arrows ovewr two days, the Elimination Round is more of a sprint.  Pressure builds with each ensuing match.  The crowd, often quiet and reserved during Qualification, is encouraged to get involved.  Cheering and chanting is allowed, in fact it is expected, even though as the archers are in the act of shooting, courtesy dictates a certain subdued decorum.  Cow bells, horns, and sininging is often a big part of Elimination Match Play.

Many archers thrive in that atmosphere and anything can and often does happen. 

 Upsets can happen and one small slip can lead to result in a loss and elimination.

Dave Strickland: “Welcome to Sackville High School”

When the team of officials responsible for the Archery Event at the 2011 Canada Games entered Sackville High School on Monday morning-Official Practice Day- to prepare for the arrival of archers, they were greeted by a booming voice  “Welcome to Sackville High School”

That enthusiastic greeting from Dave Strickland set the tone for what turned out to be a fabulous four days at the Archery Venue of the 2011 Canada Games.

Dave is a teacher at Sackville High, and the Venue Lead for the two weeks of the Games.  During Week Two, Archery took over where Pistol and Air Rifle left off from Week One.

Dave is clearly and justifiably proud of his School, the 22 year veteran teacher is `walking the talk` as a role model. 

” Part of what I see, in the program that I teach, is that alot of young people, students, have had experience in the workforce. Many of them already have part-time have jobs, but we learn how to do resumes.  What I noticed, though, is that verry few of them do any volunteering.  So when the opportunity came up to volunteer for the Games, I wanted to use it to not only show them, but encourage them to get involved, too.` said Dave.

Part of the reason that he got involved was, as with any Games,there is the opportunity to realize a legacy, in terms of equipment, improvements to faciities, etc.

Sackville High has been able to obtain a new sound system for the gymnasium, new paint on the gym walls and some improved lighting.  All of these improvements have been to benefit the athletes, but ultimately, the students and th community will see a pay-off for their `sacrifice`of a two week break from school.

`Some of our younger staff with younger families went south, or skiing, and that`s great.  e have assembled a terrific team, and many of us will remain friends afterward,`he explained.  Not all of Venue Team is from within the school, but we wanted to amke sure they felt welcom and at home, “Dave continued. 

Clearly, everyone who has come into Sackville High School has expressed a sense of feeling welcome, even the team of officials.  When Dave and his Venue team found out that meals weren`t provided for the officials on the first two days leading up to competition, they went ahead and made sure that everyone had something to tide them over till dinner time.

The venue has met all of the expectations of the competitors and their coaches, even the temperature of the rooms which was a little dicey in the first week.  Ìt was chilly,`said Dave. “But it’s corrected now.`

There is no doubt that Dave Strickland and his team are prepared to go the extra mile for the visiting teams and volunteers from outside Nova Scotia.  During Week One, one of the volunteers was hoping to get some sand from the Bay of Fundy.  By the next day, one of the Venue Team had obtained , and presented a small cache of sand to the astonished visitor.

`We`ll do whatever we can to make the stay here a good one,`laughs Dave.

Indeed.

Qualification Round Complete-Archers set to go Head to Head

The Archery competiton of the 2011 Canada Winter Games is underway.

The Qualifying Round, based on a score out of a possible 600 toal points, is the first challenge.

In the Qualification Round, the athletes will shoot a total of 60 arrows, with the outcome seeing them ranked from first through ninth.

Once the ranking is known, the Elimination Round will follow on Wednesday.

In the Elimination Matches, archers will shoot against an opponent, with each competitor shooting a toal of 12 arrows.  Out a possible score of 120, the athlete with the highest score moves forward in the Elimination Round, and the lower scoring archer is done.

“Match Play is a different animal,” stated 2011 National Youth Team Coach Jeff Gunter says.  “It comes down to who is the best shooter, but also who can handle the pressure situation. ”

“Its also the point in which the tone of the competition changes. There may be some chatter or conversation, but overall, its similar to golf, where there is little noise in the venue.  That changes in Match play.  Cheering is encouraged, although it is hoped that while the actual shooting is taking place that the noise is subdued, but a `hush`does not necessarily fall over the crowd.“

Gunter went on to say that in spite of the pressure, most archers who have been involved in Match Play before, really enjoy the atmosphere that goes along with the pressure.

“It is kind of a prelude to the Team Round, where there is a real departure from the quieter atmosphere seen during Ranking” he said.  “Its my favourite part of the tournament, and the crowd can really become part of the event.”

Omar Constant- Working for the Future

Omar Constant is in Halifax as an Assistant Coach with the Team Manitoba Archery Squad.  The resident of Opaskwiyak Cree Nation, near The Pas, Manitoba is a participant in the Aboriginal Apprentice Coaching Program.

“We started an Archery Club in my community, several years ago.  Tom Paukovic (Team Manitoba’s Head Coach) came up and did a clinic with us.  It kind of took off from there.”

Constant has been involved at differnt levels in Archery since becoming involed in the sport about eleven years ago.

“I went to the North American Indigenous Games as a support person, technical person, coach and as an athlete, when they held the event in Winnipeg in 2001”  he says.

After a successful exerience at those Games, Constant says he just got further involved in the sport as a means of doing something for his community.

Despite only having access to a facility where his club can shoot once a week, Constant has seen Archery have a positive impact in his community, as well as in the 5 other First Nations communities that are close by.  

“I’ve had parents come up to me and say ‘thank you’ for introducing their kid to archery, he said.  “We gotten kids away from alcohol and drugs, and we’ve also gotten them away from the video games and computers.  They come out and they socialize and don’t spend so much time ‘gaming'”

Constant was quick to acknowledge a number of people whom he described as mentors, including Paukovic, but also giving a special nod to Robert Legace of The Pas.  The former owner of an archery shop was described as “the guy who really got me started in archery” according to Constant.

He went on to say that he is enjoying the Aboriginal Apprectice Coaching Program.  Constant especially enjoys being able to meet coaches with different levels of experience and to share the knowledge they have. He also feels that his experience at the Canada Games is going to be of tremendous benefit when he returns home.

“I can take what i have learned here and seen how things are done and use that to help archers from the North if they want to try to qualify for the Games in the future.”

Perfect practice makes perfect

The old adage, practice makes perfect, somewhat true.  In fact, for a precision sport like archery, it is more accurate to say “Perfect Practice makes perfect.”  Archers practice alot.  Just like an athlete in any sport, hours and hours are spent at ranges, working on the tiniest detail, in order to perfect the execution of the shot.  The more times an archer can repeat the execution in the same way, the more likely they will hit the centre of the target- the”X”- and score 10 points for each arrow in that ring.  The ring is as small as a quarter for compound archers, and no bigger than a ‘toonie’ for recurve shooters.  The archer is standing 18 metres(20 yds) from the target.  The Canada Games Archery event is an Indoor event.  Outdoors, archers shoot longer distances at a larger target.

To the outsider, an Archery Tournament is an altogether different event.  Yesterday, the archers were at the venue, practicing their sport.  Today, they are back, still practicing, but under more controlled conditions.  The judges are present, the timers are working and to all appearances, the shooting is serious.  The intensity of the archers on the line has jumped considerrably from yesterday. Today is more formal.  All of the archers and their coaches and team staff are in full uniform, where yesterday, jeans and t-shirts may have been the norm.

Official practice is underway. 

This is the final run-through before the arrows begin to count for score tommorrow.  This is the final chance to tweak equipment.  Speaking of the equipment, every archer will be required to have all of their equpment inspected by the Team of judges.  This ensures that all bows, arrows, releases and release tabs comply with the rules and that no one is getting an unfair advantage.

Coaches can stand near or behind their archers during OFFIcial Practice.  When the actual competitive round starts, only the archers are allowed on the shooting line.  Coaches and managers must stay behind another line, 3 metres back from where the arrows are shot. 

The Team from Yukon arrived at the Archery venue, enthusiastic, but maybe a little overwhelmed.  For most, if not all of the archers from the only one of Canada’s three Territories represented at the Archery Event, it is their first major competition.

If one looks down the line of shooters, there is a notable difference in the equipment used by the majority of the archers, and those from Yukon.  While most of the field shoots modern, high tech bows with the most  advanced arrows available, made of a variety of alloys and carbon graphite, Travis rivest is shooting a longbow and arrows made from aluminum.  The longbow is the bow of Robin Hood, essentially a “stick and string”- it sends arrows down range at speeds much slower that modern equipment.  The longbow was used as a tool of war and was the most effective weapon of the military up until the advent of the repeating rifle.  Nevertheless, Team Yukon Archery plans to make the most of their experience at these Games.  In the end, it is the result, not the equipment that counts.

Today, the shots don’t count.  Not for score.  But the quality of the shots taken today can set an archer up for the rest of the week.  Have a good day in practice and confidence grows.  A bad day can bring doubt and take some swagger out of the stride.

You can see it in the eyes of the favourites-that look of determination, of resolute faith in their ability, to send the arrows, one by one into the very center of the target. 

It is said that an archer must learn to do two things:

STEP 1- Learn to hit  the centre of the target

STEP 2- Repeat STEP 1; over and over again.

The Archers who are at these Games are able to complete STEP 1.  Those who can progress to STEP 2 with the most consistency, will find themselves standing on the podium, after the last shot is taken.