Gloucestershire’s Paralympic archers on target for Tokyo 2020

There’s something satisfying about firing a bow and arrow, and watching as the arrow flies and flexes towards the target. Time slows as it approaches, and then buries itself deep in the foam. You’ll pretend it was skill when you hit the yellow for the first time, ignoring the ones you’ve just fired that missed the target completely.

Archery is a growing sport in the UK, no doubt helped in some part by recent Olympic and Paralympic Games. Jessica Stretton, Jo Frith and Vicky Jenkins took a clean sweep of the medals in the Women’s W1 Individual class in the Paralympics, and overall Team GB scooped six Paralympic and nine Olympic medals. That put Britain firmly on the map for the sport.

Deer Park Archers, a Gloucestershire-based archery club, have two members that are aiming their bows towards Tokyo. Grace Chappell and Phoebe Pine are both hoping to be selected for the Paralympics GB team for the next games in 2020.

“The environment [at the club] is so nice,” says Grace, who joined just over a year ago. “Everyone’s so friendly and they help out with whatever and whenever you need it.”

There are a lot of people aiming for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, but she adds that the club helps everyone achieve their goals, whether that’s hitting the target for the first time or being selected to be part of the team that will fly out to Japan in four years’ time.

Phoebe, proudly wearing a Paralympics GB top to the archery session, was selected to go out to Rio and see how the athletes lived during their time in Brazil. While she didn’t get to compete, she watched the action as it unfolded and got immersed in the Games. It was part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme, which prepares athletes for future Games and inspire potential future Paralympians.

It’s safe to say that she’s got concrete aspirations. “We got to feel what a Paralympic Games is like, which will help me when I do go to the Games.”

But if she wants to be selected, she has to have the mentality that she will be. After the excitement of Rio, she’s just started another four-year training cycle to train and get ready for the next Games. It’ll surely be heart-breaking if she’s not selected, but she needs to be prepared and at the peak of her sport.

So has the club played a part in her success so far?

“Definitely. There’s so much support for me, but also the people that are just starting out.

“You get supported and coached to a really high level, so it’s really helped me.

“I tell everybody that [the club] is like a second family.”

The Deer Park Archers were founded as a not-for-profit club in 1996, with very humble origins. In the first few winter sessions, they used the Green Dragon pub and the garage belonging to the club secretary.

Now, they’ve got over two hundred members. They’ve always got adverts running in the GL1 Leisure Centre, and many people find them through online, or more commonly, word of mouth. Dave Sandles, a coach at the club, says that they also do a lot of outreach work to schools and family groups, and often, the adults want to join in instead of just watching on from the sidelines.

Maybe it’s the feeling of being like Robin Hood that captivates kids and adults alike, or maybe it’s the whoosh of the arrow as you ping it from next to your ear. Either way, archery is likely to become a more popular sport in the next few years.

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