Fresh mindset the key for Nicolas D’Amour in Berlin
The 21-year-old admitted he has not performed as he would have hoped in the opening three stages of the 2023 Hyundai Archery World Cup but gold at the Central American and Caribbean Games earlier this month was the perfect precursor to taking on the world.
D’Amour is the standard bearer for the US Virgin Islands, a flag seldom flown at the summit of international sport, but the recurve men’s world number eight revealed freeing himself from any extra expectations has helped yield better performances this summer.
“I started off this year a little bit rougher than I would have liked to in terms of my World Cup performances,” he said.
“Previously, I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I have now just taken off all the pressure. That worked really well for me in Medellin and for the last competition that I had in the Central American Caribbean Games.”
“I was one of two people from my country to get a medal and mine was gold, so that was a big moment.”
D’Amour’s breakout season came in 2021, after the pandemic, when he repeatedly finished top eight on the Hyundai Archery World Cup. He lost that consistency in 2022.
“I did okay last year, but I don’t think I had as good a performance as I could have, but now I feel like I am beginning to pick things up and I am in a much better spot than I ever have been,” he said.
“It is about taking the pressure off. When I came onto the scene, I didn’t have any pressure and now, quite frankly, I don’t feel any pressure.”
It is easy to forget that D’Amour is still just 21, given he made his World Cup debut five years ago – at a stage held here in Berlin.
His return to the German capital marks his third world championship, with qualification for what would be a second Olympic Games also on the line.
D'Amour was one of just four athletes representing the US Virgin Islands at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the lone archer, having been given a universality invitation following a rapid rise up the rankings to as high as number three.
(And only just missing out on qualifying outright at the last-chance tournament in Paris.)
“It was a very proud moment,” he added. “I was putting the Virgin Islands on the map not just in terms of being there but also having a chance of a medal. Doing that was a very proud moment for me and my country.”
“I think the Olympics is on everyone’s mind but I am just trying to not let that change what I am doing.”
“If I think about that [during] the whole competition, I am not going to have a very fun time. I am just focusing on doing my job.”
D'Amour’s job extends beyond simply playing his own game, with his performances flying the flag for his country on the international stage. But it is something the 21-year-old is embracing, as the sport continues to grow on the Caribbean archipelago.
“We don’t have a huge programme,” he said. “I actually started with an American coach, but started with my father when I was really young. It just grew from me and we have a couple of other guys now off the back of that.”
“It is nice to be an inspiration to the young people of the Virgin Islands, because there are not always the best influences there and it is nice I can be a positive force,” said D’Amour.
“It’s a very small place and there’s not a lot to do unless you are on the water, so archery gave me a lot more to do.”
A strong result in Berlin would certainly make the news at home, while a top-three individual finish would seal a quota spot for the Paris 2024 Olympics next summer.
But D’Amour is embracing a new stress-free mindset in Berlin, despite the hopes and expectations of a nation on his shoulders.
“My approach for this competition is going to be like every other one,” said D’Amour. “I will just go out there and do my best, I have done my training, done lots of preparation for this.”
“There are really no expectations in terms of performance, I am just going to go out there and expect to do my job.”
“If I ended up on the podium here I definitely would be happy to be part of the history of the sport in the Virgin Islands because it would be a very big thing.”