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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

National Senior Games :: A Gold Medal and More

I am so grateful for this sport of archery that I love, but that comes later in the story.

Standing in the Stanford Stadium early Saturday morning, looking out at the row of pristine targets, I was filled with gladness and high expectations. Archers were everywhere unpacking equipment, setting up chairs, lining up their spotting scopes; everyone seemingly imbued with the same festival atmosphere that I was feeling. There were low clouds and a bit of dampness in the air, but that was so much better than the small buffeting gusts of wind that had plagued us in practice on Friday that I welcomed the coolness of the morning snug in the comfort of my sweater. It wasn't to last long, the sun piercing through hot and bright just as we finished up our two practice ends at 60 yards, just in time to change my perspective and make the first official end really challenging in the changed light. I am sorry to say I didn't live up to that challenge, shooting five 9's and taking a blow to my confidence all in under four minutes. Speaking of which, we lost our '30 second flag girl' after the first couple of ends because as a group we weren't even coming close to the five minutes allotted for shooting each end; fine at the time but this would come back to bite me in the persistent winds at 40 yards later in the day. (One gentleman pointed out that there was this huge million dollar electric board in front of us that they could have used, but I'm guessing that's more than the tournament could afford.)

There were only three women in my 50 - 54 group, but they mixed us up alphabetically with the compound men; I started on target 1 and Harry was just next door at target 2 with my main competition. While I didn't have a stellar performance, I stayed focused on making good shots and trying to stay calm; for anyone who knows me you will understand how happy I was just to not shoot the wrong target at any point during the weekend! The wind picked up with each passing hour and the ends at 50 yards passed quickly. I shot my first 60 of the day and started to relax a little bit as we headed into the last round at 40 yards. I started and ended that round with 57's which pissed me off but oh well. Shooting at tournaments is so different than standing out on our practice range and being surrounded by beautiful trees and hearing jays and hawks crying out. But I tried very hard to bring my best to each shot, reminding myself over and over that I just need to make one good shot at a time. Isn't that what we all tell each other, what we all strive for in this game?

We all think we can shoot better than we do and I think that is a good thing, so it was okay that I came away from the first day a little disappointed with my scores but pleased to be up by 18 points heading into day two.

Sunday began much the same way as Saturday, except Mr. Sun made his appearance earlier so our eyes were accustomed to the light when the official ends began. Despite the better light my score at the end of 60 yards was worse than the day before and I was just a little irritated. There were only the three of us in our age group on our target that day, shooting against just our competition, and I felt the pressure. I knew I could come away with Gold if I could just stay consistent and not make any fool errors, but there is always that little voice that pesters me with doubt. Then at 40 yards the wind was pestering us all something awful. I would let down and wait for the gust to pass, pull back and aim, and get pushed by the wind yet again. Think about this for a moment, the flags at the targets could be streaming towards you, the flags mid-field pointing East, and still you could feel the wind at your back as you look up to the top of the stadium where the flags were whipping out to the West. Of course this is an extreme example, but the point is that there was no rhyme or reason to the gusts, they just sailed in over the edge of the stadium and came swooping down to play havoc before disappearing just as suddenly. So patience was the game, let down and wait knowing you would have a better shot in just a minute. It felt like we were pulling back twice for each arrow shot and those five minutes we had were getting eaten up pretty fast doing this; remember we had no 30 second timer so it became a little stressful. And then something wonderful happened. I looked around, and just felt the gratitude pouring up from my heart that I was here, that I was healthy and could shoot, that it was a beautiful day, and I realized that the wind was just a part of it all. I reached deep and used that energy to carry me through the rest of the round, really connecting with the target and able to 'feel' the magic that can come with aiming when you are really focused and truly just living in the moment.

This would be a good place to mention that Harry shot really well, breaking the record in his age group and coming away with Gold too. He had to really buckle down and finish with two perfect ends to do it, and I'm really proud of him. Final Scores: Harry - 1762, Me - 1710

Was it my best score? No. Was I happy with my shooting? Yes. Did my eyes tear up when they started playing the Olympic music? Of course. And when my competition leaned over from her place on the podium at Silver to whisper, "Lets raise our hands and wave like they do at the Olympics" I was all for it, smiling from ear to ear and feeling like a kid despite being just a silly 'young' woman at the Geezer Games as I raised my arms up and waved to the cheering crowd up in the stands.