Archery: Danielle Brown aiming to handle home crowd as she sets sights on gold
Danielle Brown has competed at the highest level for five years. She is a three-time world champion, the world No 1, the world record holder, the reigning Paralympic champion and a Commonwealth champion too, the first athlete with an impairment to win gold for England in an able-bodied event. In short, she is used to elite competition.
She is then an unsurprising favourite to win a second Paralympic gold medal. But where for some being at home brings with it an advantage, for others it places a burden they are not always able to cope with. Ellie Simmonds spoke of feeling the pressure after winning her first gold medal on Saturday night. She handled it though. Brown has too but, by her own admittance, only just.
She breezed through the ranking round, finishing in first place and, with the Russian Stepanida Artakhinova, well clear of the field. On Sunday Brown faced Rubio Larina, a 50-year-old Spaniard, and soon discovered the old certainties of her shooting had temporarily vanished.
After four of the five sets the match was level. "I've been shooting really well in practice but I don't really know what happened, letting her back into the match," said Brown. "It must have been the nerves. John Stubbs [another British archer] was telling me that he was really nervous and he didn't realise the effect that the home crowd has. It's a new experience to be competing in front of such a huge crowd. To be honest, she lost the match rather than I won it."
Brown has had time since Sunday to reflect on her performance, which ended with a 6-4 victory, and the 24-year-old will not be able to repeat those mistakes in the semi-final in Woolwich today. The medal shoot-outs follow. Her opponent, another Russian, Marina Lyzhnikova, is on form, having knocked out the world No 2, Gulbin Su, in the quarter-finals.
Brown's rise to the top was a rapid one. She only took up archery aged 15, three years before Beijing, after having been diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a neurological condition that causes severe pain. Brown describes it as "a really intense, sharp, burning pain all through my feet. On the pain scale, they put it on the same level as terminal cancer". She refuses to use painkillers. "Competing helps because when I'm focusing on shooting, and with the massive adrenaline rush that comes, I'm not focusing on the pain," she said.
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