A trio of Cranbrook archers recently took on the best international talent available at the World Archery Youth Championships in China in late October.
Adam Pitney, Darby Dean and Brittany Johnson all represented Canada in Wuxi, just west of Shanghai, drawing into respectable finishes against some of the top shooters in the world.
All three competed both as individuals in their respective categories, and also in mixed team competition.
A total of 14 shooters in different age classes from compound to recurve represented Canada at the competition, which were all housed up in a hotel near the track stadium that hosted the event.
Pitney was eliminated in the 1/16th round in the junior men compound category, while Dean placed ninth in women’s cadet compound and Johnson placed eighth in junior women’s compound.
All three archers had competed in nationals over in Newfoundland in the summer, and aren’t strangers to facing down high-level competition.
“I didn’t find it a whole lot different, but you could sort of feel it inside,” said Pitney. “If I hadn’t gone to nationals, it would’ve been way more nerve wracking than it was.”
Dean agreed, noting that the encouraging team atmosphere helped.
“It was definitely intimidating and stressful, but having that team atmosphere definitely helped a lot, because it kept things a little calmer, knowing that there was a team supporting me,” Dean said.
Each shooter went into qualification rounds, which seeded them accordingly against other opponents for elimination rounds.
Pitney said he didn’t shoot too well in qualifications, but stepped up his game in the elimination.
“I stayed more positive than I would have at any other competitions where bad things happen,” said Pitney.
He went up against Leonardo Pardini of Italy, beating him by a single point of 139-138 in the 1/24th round. The Canadian shooter then faced Mario Cardoso of Mexico in a battle that was so close, it ended at a tie of 144-144.
It went to a one arrow shoot off after that, and Cardoso was able to take the win.
“I lost in the one arrow shoot-off,” said Pitney, “but I was really happy with my score, because it was the best I’ve ever shot in an elimination round, so I felt really good about myself.”
Dean ended up in ninth place in the women’s compound cadet category, making it into the 1/8th round and losing out to the eventual gold-medal winner.
Dean rode a bye into the 1/16th round, facing Ekaterina Makeeva of Russia, winning a close battle at 141-135.
After that, Dean was matched up against another Russian in Alexandra Savenkova in the 1/8th round, who took the match at 146-141 and went on to win the gold medal.
Despite the loss, Dean said her Russian opponent was very talented shooter.
“I’d rather lose against someone who’s going to do super good than someone who’s not going to do that great,” she said.
“…I shot not my best. The wind threw me off guard a lot and I felt that—I don’t want to say not trying hard enough—but I felt I shot as good as I could have with the pressure and whatnot.”
For Johnson, her results were better than she could’ve hoped for, finishing in eighth place and—like Dean—lost out to the eventual gold medal winner in the 1/4th round.
After qualifications, Johnson earned a bye into the 1/16th round, and faced Yahaira Corona of Mexico, winning by a score of 141-138. She then headed into the 1/8th round to face another Mexican named Stephanie Salinas.
Johnson shot a very close match with Salinas, and beat her by a single point at 139-138, which put her into the quarter final against Sara Lopez of Columbia.
“I was the only one from Canada that made it past that round,” said Johnson, “and then I found out I had to shoot against the number one ranked in the competition, and everyone knew who the girl was, so it was quite intimidating.”
Lopez ended up shooting a 146, while Johnson ended a dozen points behind at 134.
“I kind of let my nerves get to me on that one and I ended up shooting pretty bad for myself,” said Johnson. “She ended up beating me by quite a bit.”
Lopez went on to two more matches afterwards, defeating an American and a German to take the gold medal.
After the individual competitions, all three also participated in mixed team competitions.
While every competitor was trying to do their best, it was still a friendly atmosphere and all three Cranbrook shooters were able to meet fellow archers from around the world.
“I guess I could say that I learned that everyone is there competing for the same thing,” said Dean, “and you can tell—it doesn’t seem like we’re competing because everyone is so friendly and we’re talking with each other and we do the pin trading.
“We’re all there for the same thing.”
By watching other shooters, they were able to pick up on some different techniques as well.
“You get to see the stuff that everyone else uses, and how they shoot,” said Pitney.
“…For an archer, you can kind of pick out the little things here and there that each archer does. Like some of them will lean back just a little bit, or they’d anchor in a different spot. Just littler things.”
Johnson said she did a lot of practicing in twilight and foggy conditions at home to prepare herself for the possibility of shooting in a challenging environment.
She has also been working with a local sports psychologist over her last few competitions to help her with the mental side of the sport.
“So every time I went to a competition, I’d learn something new about myself that I needed help with,” Johnson said. “Then I’d go to him and he’d give me tools to fix that, so all the tools that I got to practice in the other competitions, I got to bring into this one.”