Young Australian archer heading in the right direction
Taylor Worth never dreamed he'd get the chance to walk out of the player's gate at Lord's and onto cricket's sacred turf, following in the footsteps of Bradman, Miller and the Chappells. Now, at 21, the wiry West Australian is the country's sole hope in the men's individual archery. On Wednesday, Australian Olympic rookie archer, Worth will be up against Britain's Alan Wills in the first cut-throat elimination round of match play on the centre of Lords. And he can't wait.
With a new personal best score, Worth was placed 23rd in last Friday's men's ranking round. In perfect weather conditions, 21-year-old Worth, from Western Australia, started strongly, scoring 338 after 36 arrows to sit in ninth place and ended the 72-arrow shoot out with 668, after a couple of calls by judges that cost him vital points, but improving his previous competition best by nine points to finish in 23rd position. "They were tough line calls from the judges but they were doing what they have to do," he said after coming off the field. Worth just missed his aim of breaking 670 points but was satisfied he had lifted well enough to stay in contention when it matters - in the elimination and finals matches on Lords main ground next Friday. The West Australian was pleased to hold his own in the best-ever display by the world's dominant archery nation, South Korea.
Worth has no problems with his draw. "I've never played Alan Wills before. He's a fantastic shooter, he's a great shot. He'll be a very tough opponent and I'm looking forward to it. You couldn't ask for a better line up for the first match. We'll play for the Ashes and see how we go." "I was shooting really well in the morning, but in the afternoon, I let my bow down and just lost a bit of my rhythm but found it at the end." Worth said.
"I was looking for a rank in the top 20 but I'm happy, it's a competition PB for me." The winner of the first-round clash between Wills and Worth is likely to tackle US star, Brady Ellison in the round of 32. Worth holds a 2-0 win-loss record against Ellison with the second of those victories coming at last month's Olympic qualifying tournament in Utah, USA.
But let's go back a bit for the full story on Taylor.
Taylor Worth wasn't all that good when he first tried to hit the target. Now he's claimed the scalp of the world's number one, Brady Ellison of the USA. Taylor is just one of two archers in the Australian team.
Born in Busselton, near Margaret River, about 220 kms or 136 miles south of Perth, he tried many sports before he discovered that archery really suited him. He could never play cricket and like football and surfing, it was one of several sports he gave up before he fell under the spell of archery at around age 10, he recalls, at a school holidays camp.
"I wasn't very good when I first started but it was something that I enjoyed," he says. "But as soon as I tried archery, it was a real challenge compared to other sports that I had tried and I found it thoroughly enjoyable."
A good eye has won him his spot on the Olympic team, Taylor feels. "I think I worked really hard to get to where I am. The AIS saw that and gave me the chance to further my studies." He didn't win a junior title but in 2010, took out his first national at the senior level. Just a month ago, he beat the world number one at the Olympic qualifying tournament, the world titles in Utah, USA, a win that's given him great confidence heading to London.
Regarding Taylor's fitness regime, he says "As long as you do anything consistently, you need to be very sharp and very strong." He trains three to four hours every day just shooting. On top of that, he puts in three to four gym sessions with weights and two cardio sessions each week. Training is divided between skill focus and shooting as much as we can as long as we can. "The wind is a major factor for the sport. It can take us from the best on the day to the worst if you don't read it properly. Mental toughness outweighs the physical aspects of the sport," says Taylor. Doing so well at the World's means that he can stand up against the world's best and go in with a chance.
Taylor's first goal in his Olympic campaign will be to achieve a good ranking. The 64 archers in each division shoot off, then go into a bracket system, Taylor explained. "One plays 64, two plays 63 and so on. Then I have to win six matches in a row over four to five days." That demands mental alertness, staying switched on for the duration. The Australian team psychologists will be there to help out. "They have been a great help throughout the training."
Fast forward to now.
Worth said he was pleased that Australian sports legends, former Australian cricket captain, Steve Waugh and Olympic gold and silver medallist long-distance swimmer, Kieren Perkins were there to show their support, especially because they had known when to keep quiet to let him concentrate. Worth didn't show any signs of nerves on his Olympic debut.
"I didn't feel nervous, I felt excitement," he said. "I was ready to compete and show the world what I've got." World number one, Brady Ellison from the USA was placed 10th with a total of 676, whilst reigning Olympic champion, Viktor Ruban of the Ukraine was down in 43rd with 660.
Looking ahead to Wednesday's knockout competition on the hallowed turf of Lords, Worth has sent an ominous warning to his rivals. "Ranking is completely different from match play and I feel that my match play is so much stronger than my ranking," Worth said. "I'm going to get out there and focus and get down to work."
On Friday, Worth will take on the world's best again to strive for as high a ranking as possible for the finals, a pressure one-on-one shoot out to be held on the main Lords ground. It is the first time in memory that the revered turf will be used for anything but cricket.
Worth, remarkably strong for his 58 kilograms or 128 lbs in a sport where some men weigh 80 kilograms, is delighted to be at Lord's again. Shooting in the Olympic Test event there last October has helped settle pre-match nerves, he says. "Being here before means I'm not overwhelmed," he said during practice. I treat it as just another shoot. The mental aspect of archery outweighs the physical.
Yesterday, he practised at the nursery end of Lord's, alongside world No.1 Brady Ellison, of the US. But that didn't overawe him because he beat Ellison, an Olympic veteran, at the world archery titles in Utah just a month ago.
Let's hope Taylor does well on Wednesday.
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.