Defending champion Andre Shelby feels more pressure in Tokyo

Andre Shelby shoots during practice at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Andre Shelby arrives in Japan as a 55-year-old – and the defending Paralympic Champion.

The compound archer from the USA won his only career individual gold medal in the men’s event five years ago in Rio. Now, he will attempt to defend that title at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“There is a little bit more pressure than normal. I’m still motivated, not just because I’m here and I made the team. But yes, there’s a lot more pressure being a champion,” he said.

He might feel more pressure, but the status also confers an advantage.

Andre knows well what to expect while shooting on a big stage, such as the arena at these Paralympics. He backed up his result in Rio with a silver medal at the World Archery Para Championships in Bejing in 2017 but now searches for the return to that elusive international podium.

With the stakes high, experience country.

“For the pressure it makes me a huge difference, but there are still many good shooters out there,” he said. “For me, it’s about shooting the best I can.”

His first impressions of shooting on the main field and match arena in Yumenoshima Park are positive. Apart from the significant heat, which is nearing 40 degrees centigrade. But he isn’t the only archer finding the high temperatures and humidity in Tokyo a challenge.

“Very nice venue, very nice, huge field,” he said. “It’s just a little bit warm!”

Paralympic archers, like the athletes competing at the Olympics, have an opportunity to shoot in the arena before competition begins. These familiarisation sessions took place on the few days preceding qualification – and are especially important in Tokyo, with everyone having the chance to shoot under the floodlights that will be used to illuminate the evening sessions of the tournament.

Andre’s last arrows before qualification on Friday were good. It’s made him optimistic ahead of the competition.

“I’m satisfied so far. I’m doing well,” he said. “I was able to shoot when I was aiming at.”

Andre’s here as a defending champion to pick up another Paralympic title. But he’s focusing on his performance, first and foremost, and letting the results fall where they may.

“That’s always a goal to get another gold medal,” he said. “But if shoot the best I can and make the podium, I will be happy.”

Competition at the Paralympics in Tokyo starts with qualification on Friday 27 August 2021.