Falling short has only served to fuel Sarah Haywood’s Olympic fire.
The Tasmanian archer – whose introduction to the sport involved a piece of gum tree and a shoelace to form a bow – says moving her target from Tokyo to Paris had been a “silver lining”.
And she is reaping the benefits.
Having maximised the COVID-19 crisis to assess her technique and mental approach to her archery, Haywood is primed to get back to competition with Archery Australia now plotting its path back to “COVID normal”.
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“I’m definitely more hungry (to compete), because I’ve had the opportunity during COVID to work on my technique and that has gone from strength to strength,” she said.
“Now I’m itching to get out there and actually put it into practice in an event where there’s going to be more pressure and really test it out.”
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns that affected each Australian state differently, Haywood, 22, was travelling every second weekend and didn’t have the luxury of time to tinker.
She has since been working with the likes of her coach, Olympic gold medallist Simon Fairweather, and Archery Australia high performance coaches via a variety of online platforms to hone her craft.
Like it has been for most during the COVID-19 crisis, it isn’t ideal, but she was determined not to let the time go to waste despite a lack of face-to-face contact.
“I’d have to be on top of my game within days every time, so it was a fantastic opportunity to go, look, you don’t have to go anywhere, so now is the time to just start from the ground up again, basically,” she said.
“I’ve had five focus areas on the bodily movements, and then the mental side which is about 95 per cent of archery. I’ve been really knuckling down and getting my process right and comfortable.
“Before, I was pretty awful at self-talk.
“Now, I have these things in place, and if I’m nervous, it’s OK, because I’ve got this process that I can stick to and it will calm me down. No matter what happens, I can still perform and execute.”
Recently selected in Archery Australia’s Paris 24 Pathway program that is assisting young athletes on their journey to – hopefully – the 2024 Paris Olympics, Haywood has been able to continue shooting at home just outside of Burnie while other archers were forced off the range.
While she was heartbroken to fall short of a shot at a Tokyo quota spot – which Alice Ingley, Laura Paeglis and Melissa Spinocchia will fight for in 2021 – Haywood has found the bright side.
“It’s bad, but it’s also really good, because I know how to do it differently,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have been so eager to change my technique and mental preparations had I not missed out, so it’s good. Silver linings.”