Luxembourg’s new coach paying dividends for Mariya Shkolna
Shkolna was happy, of course. Her position helping her all the way through to a gold medal in Bulgaria thanks to a better 10 in the final shoot-off against Turkey’s Songul Lok, after she defeated Italy’s Elisa Roner, 145-144, in the semifinal.
“I feel really great and the adrenaline hasn’t left me yet,” said the 24-year-old immediately after securing her title in the world ranking event.
“I am feeling good and relieved. It was a long week and a lot of work for me. I was actually very confident going on the line [for the shoot-off] because I knew I can shoot a good centre arrow if the wind did not come.”
“It was quiet at the moment I walked up to the line and it wasn’t the most difficult shot I had during the match because I could shoot it clean and in a calm moment.”
“The semifinal and final were pretty equal until the last arrow but that’s what made it fun,” she added. “Both of my opponents were really good and holding amazing until the end, too; it was interesting and so intensive.”
Croatian coach Dubravko Buden was one of two coaches with the Luxembourg delegation in Bulgaria.
The recently-installed Croatian import has helped Shkolna to impressive results this season already, which included a double ninth-place finish in both the individual and mixed team compound events at the Hyundai Archery World Cup season opener in Antalya.
After that event in Turkey, Shkolna praised Buden for his “…work and sharing your experience,” on her Instagram account and further expanded on his influence in an interview.
“It’s really good to have a coach behind you who is good in technique, set up and the mental game,” she said. “We are lucky we have a chance to work with Dubravko because he has got big experience behind his shoulders and it’s really helpful.”
“I like his approach because it's simple, it’s ‘have fun – if you have fun, things go easier’. We've been working on what is strong and what weak sides I have to improve, but you never know until competition whether it’s going to work out or if there are still adjustments to be made to make the changes more efficient.”
That work is always behind-the-scenes, not in the spotlight, day after day. Practise, train and repeat, with the environment often playing a large part in how successful that preparation can be.
“Every year when you start the season, you get a chance to test yourself and equipment in some local competitions, but this year it was once again a ‘trip into the dark’,” explained Shkolna.
“We had very few days that it was pleasant to shoot outside. We had snow one week before we headed to Antalya and five days before travelling to Plovdiv I got ill from shooting in the cold. Then, when I was ill, we had good weather. It’s hard because when the weather is bad there is nothing to focus on except getting cold.”
The conditions in Plovdiv were similar to that which Mariya has back home. So maybe it helped, after all.
“I worked back home a little bit on my shot execution, a bit on my shot preparation but there is really nothing extraordinary. We tend to forget small but important details in our shooting that later hold us back,” she said.
“We all have some shooting mistakes that might follow us, but we see them in competition more. Bulgaria was our second competition with Dubravko behind us, he followed a lot of what we did and what can be improved.”
Luxembourg was certainly not held back in Bulgaria.
Shkolna was part of a team of six archers at the Grand Prix, a squad which saw her join with Gilles Seywert to win bronze in the compound mixed team event and where Seywert finished sixth of all compound men and fifth with his team, while Jeff Henckels finished runner-up in the recurve men’s competition.
“It’s a pretty big deal for our country and I would call it one of the best performances for all the team with a few personal bests and national records as well,” said Mariya, who had previously medalled as a member of teams from Poland and Ukraine. “Since I started shooting for Luxembourg, it’s the first time I won a competition on a European level. So I’m really happy, really excited.”
“Archery in Luxembourg has got a small community but almost all the team have got quite a bit of experience. We’re trying to keep the level up and thanks to our new coach we have also got a set-up for better results this season.”
“Our federation does big work to populate it and support young archers and I hope we can soon extend our team and welcome more archers who are preparing right now for their time,” she continued.