Australian teenage archery sensation Elisa Barnard bows out at London Olympic Games


Australian teenage archery sensation Elisa Barnard bows out at London Olympic Games

Australia sent two young archery competitors to London to the 2012 Olympic Games. These fine ambassadors are rookies and are experiencing their first Games and have conducted themselves like seasoned sportspersons, given the spotlight and brush with fame they have been experiencing. The Opening Ceremony on Friday last, the size of the Olympic village and the archery venue, Lords Cricket Ground seemed quite daunting.

However when the archers were finally allowed to practice on the hallowed turf at Lords for the first time last Wednesday morning, Taylor Worth and Elisa Barnard were joined by former Australian cricket captain and now Olympic team liaison officer, Steve Waugh, a veteran of several famous Lord's triumphs, who made a career-defining 152 not out there.

Elisa Barnard - Australian Olympics Archery Team

Waugh escorted them onto the hallowed turf and into the historic pavilion after a training session at the venue. Waugh had the Australian posse enchanted as they wandered past statues and portraits of Australian and English cricket doyens, through the prestigious Long Room and onto the famous visitor's balcony and dressing room.

A huge cricket fan, archer Taylor Worth was over the moon. "It was fantastic, certainly a once in a life time experience. A lot of people would never have that opportunity and he took us under his wing," Worth said.

Fellow archer Elisa Barnard now understands the unique experience of walking out to compete on the Lord's ground. "I was talking to Steve at lunch the other day and I asked him why Lords is so special," said Barnard. "He said it's not the way the ground's set up, it's the atmosphere and the vibe you get. I didn't really know what he meant before today. Because when I walked out there, there really was a vibe you couldn't explain. There was something really special about the place. I'm not a major cricket fan and I could still feel it, so it's a real honour."

Waugh's notorious competitive nature could not be masked however and he admitted, after watching his countrymen go for the bullseye, "I haven't tried having a go, but watching it, I'd love to have a go. That is the great thing about the Olympics. When you watch it up close, you want to get out there and have a go."

Barnard and Worth returned the favour, handing over their bows to Waugh, who couldn't wait to try his turn at archery.

After receiving a crash course in technique, Waugh proved that he is a man of many sporting talents, hitting the practice target with his two arrows, impressing the large gallery who came out to meet the Australian cricket icon.

After watching the Australian archery pair in action during the 30 minute familiarisation session on the field of play, Waugh said although it was certainly different seeing archery at Lords, it would help raise the profile of the sport.

"It is different. I never thought I would see it like this and I'm sure the Marylebone Cricket Club members didn't either. However it increases the profile of Lords across the world," said Waugh.

Despite that, Waugh was positive towards the effect hosting the Olympics would have on Lord's and the effect the famous venue could have on the sport of archery. Waugh said that he hopes he can help raise the profile of the sport, aided by his presence at Lords.

"It increases the profile of Lords across the world," added Waugh, now 47. "And the great thing about the Olympics and archery being at Lords is it will raise the profile of archery as a sport in Australia. It is hard to get attention for minority sports in Australia because we have a lot of major sports we are great at. Archery would be a great sport for kids to get involved with."

Waugh was speaking ahead of the start of the archery competition, which kicked off with the ranking round events on Friday 27th July, the first event other than football to get underway. He continued "I had a crash course in the rules this morning, so I am improving. In the preliminary round you shoot 72 arrows and the maximum score is 720. Then it's 64 versus one and so forth. I know the basics."

Waugh asked Elisa Barnard how cricket's grandest stage had been configured for archery.

"Steve asked me which direction we were shooting from and I said, Towards the spaceship-looking thing and away from the red brick building. He was, like, You mean the pavilion. I think I might have embarrassed myself a bit there."

Archery opened its innings from the pavilion end yesterday, as Sydneysider Barnard and West Australian Taylor Worth familiarised themselves with the famous green sward on which they will shoot their arrows in search of gold. It didn't take long for the magic to rub off and they practised in the foreground of the historic stand at Lord's.

"Even though I'm not as much of a cricket fan as Taylor and didn't really know what the place was, you can feel it when you walk in here." Barnard said. "There's a vibe that's completely unexplainable."

The Marylebone Cricket Club's members and their egg-and-bacon ties were nowhere to be seen, but Waugh expects they will be out in force in coming days, drawn by novelty and an innate appreciation of elite sport, no matter the form. "They're a bit more open in their thinking these days," said Waugh, who has become a prominent member of the WCC since joining the committee, leading its corruption working party. "Some of their members were probably shocked that archery will be happening at Lord's. But it's great for the history of the ground."

Swimming legend, Kieren Perkins was so moved by his first visit to Lords that he confessed to an urge to souvenir a handful of the turf. He settled for photos with Waugh and a brush with sporting history.

"Who gets to stand on the Lords pitch with Steve Waugh? It's pretty extraordinary," he said. "There's iconic places in the world you go and this is so special. It's hallowed ground."

Barnard is on her first visit to England and counted double-decker buses on the journey from the airport to the athletes village - there were 126. The pair will shoot 72 arrows each in Friday's ranking round on the Lord's nursery, where all archers will receive their ranking from 1 to 64 based on their total score after 72 arrows. They will be back on the main arena for Saturday's elimination phase, when Worth said their surrounds would be shut out completely.

"As soon as you nock your arrow and you're up ready to shoot, you're doing what you've done every single day for the last 11 years for me. It's just me and a target."

Still, it's hard not to get in the spirit, even for a cricket novice like Barnard. "Maybe we should ask for the Ashes as well as a medal," she quipped.

Australian coaches yesterday rested Australia's only female archery competitor, 19-year-old teenager Elisa Barnard, to keep her fresh for Friday's ranking event. Elisa, from Sydney, was in action in the women's ranking round and was placed 58th out of 64 with a total score of 601 on her Olympic debut, pitching her straight into a tough knockout clash against Denmark's Carina Christiansen at Lord's on Monday afternoon.

Elisa attends Macquarie University where she is studying Law and Psychology and is coached by Lynette Rankin-Tyack. Her hobbies include music, swimming and cycling.

"I wasn't as nervous as I thought. I just got on there and shot my arrows," said Barnard. "A former Olympian told me this morning to just go out there and enjoy every arrow." She will now face Danish archer Carina Christiansen who was placed seventh with 663 points, in the first round of knockout competition. However the 19-year-old is not fazed about going up against a more experienced and higher-ranked opponent and believes she has room for improvement.

"For me a draw is a draw and a competitor is a competitor. I'm not concerned with whom I'm up against. I'm just going to get on the line and shoot to the best of my ability. I've always been a dark horse in match play. When I stand on the line I'm not even going to look at who I'm up against," said Barnard.

"It doesn't concern me. I generally do rank pretty low but I can soar through the ranks, so I'm used to going in as an underdog against higher-ranked competitors and still giving them a run for their money. In most of the World Cups this year, I ranked about 70th and I ended up much higher after match play."

Elisa Barnard will revel in her self-proclaimed status as a dark horse in the women's match play round at the London Olympics.

The Dane will start as the heavy favourite in the best-of-five sets encounter, although that doesn't worry the Olympic debutant from Sydney.

Barnard has been living the dream in London, an adventure which has included meeting Prince Charles and his wife Camilla on Saturday, less than 24 hours after marching in the opening ceremony. "When they asked me yesterday and said I'd been selected to see them, my jaw just dropped to the ground," said Barnard. "I said why me, I'm just little old me from Sydney, I don't deserve to meet the royals."

Fast forward to this week.

On Monday in the sudden death round, Elisa Barnard was unable to counter fluky winds at Lord's as she bowed out in the first round of match play at the London Olympics, losing 7-3 to Danish No.1 Carina Christiansen. Barnard, 19, started well, winning the opening set against Christiansen before going down 24-25 24-21 24-24 25-23 27-21 (124-114).

"After I won the first set, everything at my end felt great, so I'm not sure what went wrong," said Barnard.

"I'll have to have a look at the video because mentally I felt fine. My form felt great, it felt like all of my shots should have been in the 10. I'm maybe putting it down to the wind. The flags were blowing each way, they were changing constantly. I'm used to very strong winds at home, much stronger than this, but they are a lot easier to predict."

The Sydneysider was the only Australian archer in the women's competition in London and she pledged to come back better in Rio de Janeiro in four years' time.

"It didn't go as well as I would have liked today, but that's sport," she said.

"One of my favourite quotes is from Michael Jordan where he said I failed over and over and over again in my life and that's why I succeed. Every time you lose it's not really a failure because you can gain something from it."

Later in the day, Christiansen advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-4 win over Le Chien Ying from Taiwan.

On Monday night, Elisa Barnard was spotted in the audience at the Australian Boomers Basketballers' game against Spain, clutching her boxing kangaroo. We wish Elisa all the very best for the future.

These are the rules which archers compete under at the Olympics.

Archers stand 70 metres from their target and score points by shooting arrows at 10 concentric scoring zones, from the golden 'bullseye' 10-score at the centre to the one-score on the white outer ring. They have 40 seconds to release each arrow.

In the individual and team competitions, a preliminary round to determine seeding takes place before the official start of the Olympic Games, consisting of 72 arrows.

The seedings are used to determine who plays whom in the head-to-head elimination rounds. In the individual competition, 64 archers compete in a knock-out format, with matches comprising 12 arrows each.

Any country that qualifies three male or three female archers into an individual event can compete in the corresponding team event. Team events follow the same competition format as the individual events, with the exception that knockout matches consist of 24 arrows per country, eight per archer.

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