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Archers aiming for clean sweep
As a former world champion archer Mel Clarke makes her Paralympic Games debut in Beijing with high hopes of taking the gold medal. But her biggest rivals could be her ParalympicsGB team-mates Danielle Brown and Pippa Britton.
“At the moment we are ranked one, two, three and in the world,” said Clarke, who was world champion in the individual compound event in 2005. “A sweep of the medals would be nice - it would be a good photograph.”
Clarke, a 26-year-old teaching assistant from Norwich, was succeeded as world champion by Brown, who took the title in Korea last year when Britton was fourth. “
“We are planning to meet in the final,” said Clarke. “We’ve agreed that we’ll avoid each other till then, and bronze will already be won.”
Team manager Tim Hazell is more philosophical.
“Anything can happen because of the head-to-heads. They may end up playing against each other like the British girls did in the Olympics.”
Great Britain topped the archery medals table in Athens four years ago as the only country to win two gold medals. Clarke is one of several new faces on the team this time and Hazell is confident that the Paralympics GB archers are fully prepared to repeat their Athens success.
“I honestly believe we are as well prepared as can be at his moment in time,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work over the last few years. This is a fairly new team, we have two ex-Paralympians in the team but everybody else is new.
“Being a new team we’ve trained everybody to go out there and do the best they possibly can. That’s all you can ask of any sports person. We are confident we can do well in these Paralympics, very confident.”
Clarke may be new to the Paralympics but she’s not new to the sport which she took up eight years ago. She first became an international in 2002, and was the first disabled archer to shoot for the able-bodied team. Now, she is thrilled to have made her first Paralympic Games.
“Now we are here it is really exciting,” she said. “The last three weeks have gone bang, bang, bang. It’s really cool sitting in the dining room seeing so many people wearing Great Britain kit and thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m a part of that.’
“I shoot compound bow and in Athens that wasn’t an event. It never has been part of the Paralympics so it’s never figured in my plans at all. Up to now it was always the European Championships and World Championships that I would look for. Up until now the Paralympics wasn’t part of the sport for me, so it’s great to have the opportunity to be here.
“I think the Paralympic Games will be different as there are so many different sports here. The events I’ve done have just been archery-based and it’s the Paralympics, the status of the event just makes it bigger.”
Clarke took up archery “because it was something I could do from my wheelchair and could do on my own.
“I was that bad at it when I started it was unbelievable,” she said. “I went with a friend over the summer and we were shooting from 10 yards and I missed the target for weeks and weeks.
“I now work with kids and see them missing the target and saying, ‘Oh no, I’m rubbish.’ And I think, ‘Yeah, you are, but I was worse.’
“A guy came along and changed my bow from recurve to a compound and it started from there really. It just worked better.”
The archery competition gets underway on the 9th September with the ranking round.
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games officially open on Saturday (6 September) and will see 11 days of competition before drawing to a close on 17 September.
ParalympicsGB has 206 athletes competing across 18 sports at the Games.