Michael is real life Robin Hood

IPSWICH archer Michael Peart may now be on the cusp of this year's Beijing Olympics, but it hasn't always been an easy journey for the 31 year-old.

Stuart Watson

IPSWICH archer Michael Peart may now be on the cusp of this year's Beijing Olympics, but it hasn't always been an easy journey for the 31 year-old.

Reporter STUART WATSON met the former engineer at his training ground near the Suffolk Showground to talk Robin Hood, boredom and potential fame.

CHASING the Olympic dream is a lonely business for Ipswich archer Michael Peart.

It may be a sport that conjures up images of the action packed camaraderie of Robin Hood, but the reality is very different.

“I love my sport, but God it can be boring,” said the 31-year-old. And you can see why.

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For six hours a day, six days a week, an often solitary Peart fires off 300 arrows at a target in the middle of an isolated field behind the Suffolk Showground.

“I'm out in all conditions throughout the year,” says Great Britain's No.1 ranked archer. “It's amazing how much shelter you can get by shooting right up against this hedge.

“You've got to work hard, but you've got to work clever as well. You can't just keep doing the same thing over and over, you've got to learn how to improve.”

Perhaps this isolation is why Peart can't quite picture the potential national interest that might lie ahead for him if he were to gain at medal in Beijing or London 2012.

“Every time a new series of Robin Hood starts on TV the national governing body has to employ another person to answer the phones, but the interest does then tend to gradually drop off.

“I've seen the overnight interest that the Olympics can generate in lesser known sports and its winners, but during the relentless training days it is hard to picture all of that sometimes.”

Only three male and three female archers will travel to Beijing, but already Peart has one foot in the squad as he leads qualifying with just two rounds to go and only six archers left in the cutting process.

If he were to be selected it would cap a remarkable rise to the top for a man who only started practising the Olympic discipline of Recurve just seven years ago.

Previously he had competed with a Compound bow (not recognised in the Olympics) ever since taking up the sport on his 14th birthday following a sports-based school trip to the Lake District.

Peart explained: “I started with the Compound simply because there was one in my club shop for £30 at the time. They are steadier and faster bows and have much more technology, such as magnifying sites.”

Having made a winning debut for the British junior team in 1994, flying on an aeroplane for the first time to compete in France, Peart caught the bug for competition and made the senior national side just two years later.

However, despite him rising up the rankings over the next few years, there was one itch that simply would not go away.

“Every four years my mates who shot Recurve would all pack their bags and head off for the Olympics and I began to think, hang on a minute, I should be there too.

“I'd just finished fifth at the World Cup and was ranked second in the world so it was quite a lot to walk away from but I knew I had to do it.

“For a while it was extremely hard work. Although I made the British individual team within six months I really struggled for about three years and was placing nowhere in big events for quite some time.”

Such is the difficulty of the change in discipline that Peart is one of just three across the world to have successfully made the swap over.

Now the Lottery funded sportsman, who is a member of Deben Archery Club and the Blue Arrows AC, is hoping to help others make the switch, beginning with Suffolk's Richard Wilkins.

In addition to Peart's strong chances of making the Beijing squad, Suffolk could well have another resident in the final three with the emergence of 16 year-old Tom Barber from Bungay who is currently third in qualifying.

“Archery is for anyone,” added Peart, “At the last Olympics the silver medallist was 46, while the bronze medallist was 16. That sums it up in a nutshell.

“Tom trains up here with me and he looks a very promising archer. I thought Beijing would come too quick for him, but right now I wouldn't be surprised if he sneaked in.”

- Michael Peart is currently in need of a new spotting scope to aid with his training. In return for sponsorship Peart can carry logos to all events, except the Olympics.

In addition he is willing to provide a training session for company employees. If you are able to sponsor Peart in any way please e-mail him at: archerymichael@hotmail.com.

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