Nicky leaves no stone unturned in her hunt for Olympic glory

A tractor rolls past cutting the grass as I exchange pleasantries with two-time Commonwealth gold medallist Nicky Hunt.

A tractor rolls past cutting the grass as I exchange pleasantries with two-time Commonwealth gold medallist Nicky Hunt.

It’s a bleak Tuesday morning in the sleepy Suffolk countryside - a location which hardly conjures up images of Olympic glory - but here I am rubbing shoulders with an Olympic hopeful hoping to add another string to my bow.

The spot where Nicky and I stand - amongst the vast acres of greenery - could just hold the key to her destiny.

The hours spent there as well as at Deben Archery Club, the gym and with her psychologist makes up a vital part of the jigsaw that she hopes to complete in London next year with a gold medal.

If anyone deserves the chance to star in front of her home support then it is the Hertfordshire-born archer.

She amassed two gold medals at last year’s Commonwealth Games and now she is making every last effort to be in the shake-up for London.

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“I shoot six days a week so we are spending two or three days up at the national training centre in Lilleshall and the other days down here,” explained Hunt, who had invited me along to have a go at the recurve discipline of the sport that she hopes to compete in next year.

“We have got to be careful not to shoot on our own all the time as, in those instances, we are not in competition conditions and it is important to get along to club nights as well. Yes, it can be pretty isolated.”

Hunt’s ambitions are clear but it is remarkable that the 26-year-old has time to think about her aspirations, such is her gruelling schedule.

Whilst firing arrows is her bread and butter, she leaves no stone unturned in her ambition to be the best.

And it has paid off so far. Last year she was number one in the world at compound archery and has only since relinquished that position and moved back to recurve as compound is not an Olympic sport.

“I normally shoot around 200-300 arrows a day, six days a week as well incorporating nine gym sessions into my weekly schedule which includes weight training twice a week, core training four times and cardio-vascular three times,” said Hunt.

“I also do rotator cuff stability to keep the muscles nice and strong and see a psychologist too.”

It’s that last bit that interests me as I frantically try to keep a steady arm whilst keeping my eye on a target 10 metres away, as opposed the 70 that Hunt competes at.

“In a sport like archery you have got to be focused on what you are doing as you are usually in a high-pressure situation,” said Hunt.

“That really is the difference between those who win medals and those that do not at the end of the day.

“You can get an archer who shoots 10s consistently but when it comes to a final, can they handle the pressure then?

“It works for me and in the Commonwealth Games, I faced some of the biggest shots in my career and the pressure was phenomenal.

“But I had worked up to this moment for three or four years and had already competed in the final a hundred times in my head, so I was able to stay in the zone and think about what I normally do. I forgot about everything else around me and that is what you have to do.

“I think everyone gets nervous and there is no point saying otherwise but I think you lose your edge or are not really wanting it enough if you are not.”

I fired my first few shots above the board, never mind above the target but as time went on, I focused, settled into a rhythm and eventually hit some good shots, including one in the yellow.

However, just as I was beginning to experience delusions of grandeur, I was brought back to earth with a bang.

Back to reality, I remembered that I was only firing at a target within spitting distance.

Add to that the fact that my arm was getting twitchy and I soon realised that it would take a bit of core and cardio-vascular work to be comfortable firing arrows on a regular basis.

As for Hunt, her technique is so graceful and, time after time, she hits the spot with an unerring accuracy.

“I have been shooting 70 metres away and you have been shooting 10, you have got a lot of practice to do,” joked Hunt, who is funded by UK Sport.

“The higher the poundage you can handle smoothly, the quicker the arrow will fly through the air and is less affected by the weather conditions. It’s all about good technique too and you have to be consistent over and over. You only have to be one degree out and you can be right off the target.

“But you did well. You got on the target pretty quickly, was hitting the blue consistently and also scored a 10.”

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