The Calvin Report: Britain in early archery exit but achieve aim

Interest in team event lasts just 23 minutes but trio speak of an experience they will never forget

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The Independent Online

WG Grace, Robin Hood. Douglas Jardine, Sir Anthony Dod. Colin Cowdrey, Queenie Newall. Your boys took one helluva beating, long before the Long Room at Lord's served its first livener of the morning.

According to the Tavern clock, Great Britain's archers lasted precisely 23 minutes in the men's team competition. Their 223-212 first-round defeat by Ukraine was the equivalent of an eight-wicket drubbing. Everyone seemed remarkably sanguine.

A Wimbledon tennis-style crowd, assembled at the home of cricket, delivered the shrill sympathy of suburbia. The three archers, Larry Godfrey, Simon Terry and Alan Wills, have another opportunity in individual competition and had the amiable air of tourists wandering in the vague direction of the museum.

They had been introduced, just before 9am, to the strains of "London Calling". The 5,000 audience, many of whom appeared more naturally drawn to Chris de Burgh than The Clash, gave a yelp of satisfaction that they, too, were participants in history. Even the MCC stewards, resplendent in cream blazers, beamed, which is normally a sackable offence.

"I will take this to my grave," said Wills, who is rather too polite to pull off his stage name, Dangerous Al. "That was the most amazing experience I have had in sport. Walking out there, to that reception, means just as much as putting a medal around your neck."

That's gloriously off-message in this elitist era, where even the most humble Olympian talks as if sport is a cross between quantum physics and an 18-hour shift in a tractor factory in Omsk. Wills deserves to get away with it because he knows what hard work feels like. He's a Cumbrian carpenter, who had an eye for a target the moment he went rabbiting with a catapult as a child. He trains at least two hours a night at an archery club at Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, and values the release from the building site.

"Getting up at 5am, and then working for 12 hours a day, five or six days a week, is no fun. Sometimes all the hard work gets to you. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to go out into the cold to shoot. But the honour of representing your country makes it all worthwhile.

"I love the feeling of bettering myself every day. Archery has made my life more fulfilling. It teaches you the value of self-discipline. You're pushed on by the buzz of the perfect shot. It's so sweet. You just know it's going to be in the middle. You work to repeat that fantastic feeling over and over again. You're conquering yourself, time after time."

Or not, as the case may be. If Sir Anthony Dod's archers at Agincourt had been in such form, Henry V might have had an entirely different place in British history. The home team shot only five maximums out of 24, compared to the gimlet-eyed Ukrainians, who shot 11. Unfortunately they were the prey, rather than the hunters in mid-afternoon, when they were devoured by the South Koreans.

Archery GB once tried to bottle the Korean magic, importing Peter Kim as head coach. An eccentric character, he couldn't cope with Anglo Saxon informality. Since it is politic in Korea to address him as "Head Coach, Master, Sir" being referred to as "Pete" provided a terminal culture shock.

But evidently there is some substance to such conventions of professional respect. Kim coached his new charges, Italy, to a dramatic last-arrow win in the final against the US, an achievement that will not go unnoticed back home. An estimated 20 million South Koreans, 40 per cent of the nation's population, followed their team on TV yesterday. The Olympic squad, chosen from 33 professional teams funded by multinational corporations, prepared by bungee-jumping and platform diving. Visualisation techniques, which involve firing the bow without using an arrow, are designed to instil muscle memory. That's why the world record holder, Im Dong-hyun, dismisses the fuss about his being legally blind.

Their semi-final defeat against the US last evening was viewed as a national disgrace. It was Korea's first loss in Olympic team competition since Atlanta in 1996. A bronze medal, following a play-off win over Mexico, was greeted by wan smiles.

The angst created by that is a far cry from the essential gentility of the sport in England. Revealingly, the biggest boost to the sport's popularity in the UK in recent years was provided by Orlando Bloom. His portrayal of Legolas, the elvish archer in Lord of the Rings, led to a 10 per cent surge in registrations.

Archery has tried to embrace the modern performance culture, but Queenie Newell, who was 53 when she won the women's gold medal in London in 1908, would recognise certain facets of contemporary archery in the shires. Naomi Folkard, who accompanies Amy Oliver and Alison Williamson in the women's team event today, first tried a bow and arrow at the age of five, at the Leamington Methodist Church's Scout & Guide family day. It seemed a more suitable alternative to abseiling. More tea, vicar?

Recipe for Olympic succ ess

The target

Three podium finishes are still possible, despite the men's team having already been knocked out. There is hope after the seven-medal haul in the last Commonwealth Games.

The week

Men's archers Simon Terry, and veteran invitee Alan Wills have an outside chance of reaching Friday's individual final, but world No 10 Larry Godfrey, who recently set a new personal best, should be there.

Wow factor

Im Dong-hyun, from South Korea, who is considered legally blind, set a new world-record score of 699 in his ranking round on Friday.

Amazing fact

The 40-year-old Alison Williamson will tie a British Olympic record with her sixth appearance at the Games (he debut was at Barcelona in 1992). She won bronze in 2004.

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