Nicolas Girard’s Vegas obsession has golden ending
Exactly two years ago, Nicolas Girard took bronze at the 2020 Indoor Archery World Series Finals in Las Vegas.
That third place signalled an emergence on the world stage and, at the time, it was his first podium position outside of Europe. His previous major result had come just two weeks earlier when he won a silver medal at the (fairly local to Nicolas) Sud de France – Nimes Archery Tournament that January.
It would be an understatement to say that a lot has happened and changed in the world since February 2020, but for Girard, it was almost déjà vu when in-person competition restarted fully this year.
Girard medalled at both Nimes and Vegas again, but this time finishing with a flourish. He took silver in France and gold in the US.
After beating Estonia’s Robin Jaatma in the quarterfinals of a second consecutive event (with a perfect 150 both times, too), the 21-year-old Frenchman arrived in the Vegas final a favourite over Spain’s Alberto Blazquez. He lived up to the billing, leading throughout and never blinking, despite pressure from the Spaniard, to eventually take a 147-146 victory, thanks to a 10 with his final arrow.
Coming from Saint-Martin-de-Crau, a town just 50 kilometres southeast of Nimes, it is no surprise Girard feels at home shooting there – but Vegas is a different story. It’s the other side of a large pond and the matches are played in a one-off finals arena, large and imposing and full of foreign crowd.
“Shooting in that Las Vegas finals arena was a dream I had for a very long time and it came true,” said Girard to World Archery shortly after arriving home in southern France.
“[The atmosphere] was very impressive but as I had the chance to shoot in the Nimes arena in my final against Jean-Philippe Boulch a few weeks earlier, this helped me a lot for Vegas.”
Girard made his first appearance in Vegas in 2019 at the age of 18.
“Ever since then it was my desire to shoot in the finals arena,” he said. “It became an obsession to win this title and I would like to thank my two coaches, Max [Parpillon, club coach] and Sebastien [Brasseur, French coach] as well as all my friends and family.”
From bronze to gold, what’s changed since 2020 for Girard?
“I prepared better this year,” he said. “I trained a lot more with more regularity. My shooting technique also improved and I have gained muscular endurance which allowed me to be less tired in the final match, a match which required a lot of energy from me.”
You have to go back to 2010 to find when Girard first picked up a bow. It was a day he not only discovered a new sport but a piece of family history, too – and one which spanned multiple generations.
“I shot my first arrows during a sports day in Saint-Martin-de-Crau, near Arles. It’s a day when the town’s sports associations come together to promote their sports,” explained Girard, who used to spend more of his time up a mountain with a snowboard.
“That same day I learned that my grandfather and my father had practised archery previously and since that day I never stopped shooting arrows.”
Nicolas’ father, Christopher, and grandfather, Robert, shot in the village of Entressen, home to just under 5000 inhabitants, at a club affiliated to ‘L'Union Française des Œuvres Laïques d'Éducation Physique’, a union which uses sport as a tool for education, citizenship and empowerment.
Now, his sister and mother both shoot, too – starting in 2010 and 2021 respectively – with Nicolas at the club at which he continues to train in his hometown.
‘Les Archers Saint Martinois’, they’re known as the ‘flamingos’.
Despite an almost pre-ordained route to a bow, Nicolas takes great pleasure in the sport he discovered.
“I love the precision, the speed the arrow has when it comes out of the bow and the unique feeling when the arrow hits the centre of the target,” said ‘Nico’, as he likes to be called.
“But, above all of that, what I like the most is this spirit of sharing that there is in this sport.”
Less than two weeks after podiuming in Vegas, Girard is back in action in Slovenia, competing in the European Indoor Archery Championships, where he’s in with a shot at yet another major medal – this time in a French, rather than his pro-team, shirt.
“It is a great source of pride to represent my country,” said Nico. “And I hope to be able to continue it for a long time.”