Compounders return to international stage after Olympic hiatus

Mike Schloesser competes at stage three of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris.

Mike Schloesser spent the tail end of July sleeping on the couch. It wasn’t the Dutchman's preferred option, he explained, but his wife left him no choice. 

“It was really nerve-wracking,” Schloesser said. “Really emotional. There weren’t a lot of dry eyes in the house, I’ll tell you that.”

Watching Gaby Schloesser compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games required a change of sleeping scenery he couldn’t avoid. 

While the recurve woman’s event was shot during daylight hours in the archery arena at Yumenoshima Park, her husband was dutifully setting alarms or staying up through the night to tune in from the couple’s home in the Netherlands. 

“Qualification was at two am, and the day after was the mixed team event, which was at four in the morning,” Mike said of the eight-hour time difference. 

“Long days, short nights. A lot of naps on the couch. It was really difficult being so far away.”

Schloesser has, fortunately, had plenty of time to regulate his sleep schedule since then.

Left with a hole in his calendar while 128 of the best recurve archers in the world gathered in Japan, the top-ranked compound man received an extended break to rest – or not – during the hiatus created by the Olympic Games.

“I took a break because the schedule allowed for it,” said Schloesser, who like his compound brethren, hasn’t competed internationally since stage three of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in June.

“Sometimes it's necessary. Picking it up after you take a break, you feel refreshed and ready.”

Nora Valdez shoots at stage one of the Hyundai Archer World Cup in Guatemala City.

The Colombian compound women took advantage of the time off by taking their time returning home after stage three of the international circuit in Paris.

Fresh off a victory in the women’s team event and Sara Lopez’s individual gold – which also secured the reigning champion her spot at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final later this month in Yankton – the trio of Lopez, Alejandra Usquiano and Nora Valdez took a few days of holiday to see the sights in the French capital.

“We deserved it,” said Valdez, who earned a ticket to the season finale with her victory at stage one in Guatemala City. 

“We knew we had some time before Yankton, so our coach told us to have some fun, to enjoy ourselves, and then when we go back and train we’ll have a new energy of being rested and having visited a new place.”

Valdez said she used to struggle with letting off the gas in the past, instead often returning to the practice field immediately following competitions in favour of taking time to recuperate.

It wasn’t until her coaches insisted that she rest that she agreed to give herself time to recover. The archery season is long, with excessive travel and 1000s of arrows shot over the course of the year.

“As much as you would like to work on perfecting things, you must give your body some time to relax a little, and your mind as well,” Valdez said. “Otherwise you will get burned out.”

Mike Schloesser competes during stage three of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, France.

Both Colombia and the Netherlands held national competitions shortly after Paris.

But many compound archers have been left mostly to their own devices in terms of staying sharp leading up until Yankton.

Valdez downplayed the notion that she would be any less sharp because of the gap in competitions, saying the benefits of rest outweigh any potential rust of two months without facing an elite opponent.

Schloesser echoed those sentiments, adding that the break has allowed him to gradually work back to the level that made him a constant presence on the medal stand during the international circuit.

The Colombian women are prepared as well.

The team, which is a favourite to regain the world title, met in the city of Pereira for 10 days earlier this month to regroup and refocus ahead of the back-to-back Hyundai Archery World Cup Final and Hyundai World Archery Championships. 

The trio, like compound archers across the globe, welcomed the break. But they’re ready to compete once again. 

“I think it’s a really great challenge to keep up the good level we’ve had and hopefully get it even higher,” Valdez said. “The expectations, the doubts, the fears… it’s all part of the joy of arriving at a new competition, the chance to improve and make things even better.”

Competition at the 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships starts with qualifying on Tuesday 21 September.