Nicholas D’Amour narrowing the gap between dreams and reality

Nicholas D’Amour shoots at the 2021 European Grand Prix in Antalya.

Nicholas D’Amour’s aspirations know no bounds.

The way he sees it, the 19-year-old recurve archer from the US Virgin Islands has an individual gold medal waiting for him at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. He just has to earn the right to retrieve it.

It’s quite simple, really. All he has to do is perform at the level at which he knows he’s capable. D’Amour hasn’t quite put it all together yet, he acknowledges, but that hasn’t prevented him from fantasising about what he will be able to accomplish once he gets there.

“The goals for this year are to win the spot for the Olympics in Paris, win the Olympic Games in Tokyo, win the world championships and the world youth championships, and come out of this season ranking number one in the world and as the best version of myself,” D’Amour said last week from the Antalya 2021 European Grand Prix, professing his desires with the air of someone ordering the entire menu at a restaurant.

“I know I have the skills to do all of these things,” he continued. “I just have to put it together, over and over again, in a competition, similarly to how I did here, but hopefully with a better qualification round.”

D’Amour didn’t do himself any favours at the start of the tournament in Antalya, scoring 653 points in near-perfect weather to seed 50th at the European Grand Prix. Coming off a squandered opportunity to claim one of six quota places to the Olympics at last month’s Pan American Championships in Monterrey, the alluring confidence D’Amour brings into every tournament appeared destined to leave him disappointed once again.

It wasn’t until he found himself down, 4-0, to Dan Olaru of Moldova in the second round of matchplay that he snapped into action.

On the brink of defeat and elimination from the competition, D’Amour roared back with a 29-point series and won three sets on the trot to beat Olaru, the second of two Olympians he eclipsed in the first two phases. He then survived a shoot-off, shooting a 10 against Moritz Wieser of Germany, before defeating Russian world number 15 Artem Makhnenko in the quarters.

D’Amour’s run finally ended with a straight-set loss to Russia’s Galsan Bazarzhapov in his debut world-ranking event final, but not before securing his – and the US Virgin Islands’ – first major international archery medal, climbing the podium to collect silver.

Perhaps there’s something to his confidence after all.

“Even when I was down, 4-0, I knew that if I trusted in myself, my technique and my training that I would have no problem going through each match,” D’Amour said. “I knew I had the skill to be ranked higher because I would look at the number one seed and say I have more skill than he does, I just didn’t show that in my ranking round.

“When matchplay came the next day, I knew that I could show my skill there with no problem.”

There is still a sizable gap between D’Amour’s expectations and the results he has delivered so far. But that distance is narrowing.

His scores have improved dramatically over the past two years, having spent time in training centres across the United States, and he watched his world ranking jump from 138 to a career-best 41 after Antalya.

With scores of 670-plus on the 72-arrow, 70-metre ranking round firmly attainable in competition, an Olympic bid is still within his grasp.

“I know I should have qualified in Mexico, it’s just that I let my mind get in the way between me and my dreams,” D’Amour said. “When the time comes to qualify again, I can be more relaxed and have more trust in myself because I know now more than ever that it’s like me to be better than the person next to me, and that I can be on a different level than anyone else as long as I don’t let my mind get in the way of me and my shooting.”

The 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup starts in Guatemala City on 19-25 April. After Lausanne in May, the third leg is scheduled for Paris in June, which is also where the final qualification tournament for the upcoming Olympic Games will take place.

The table is set for D’Amour and his lofty appetite. He’s just waiting for his aspirations to manifest on the score sheet.

“No matter what level you are on, you have to shoot for the stars and be confident in yourself,” D’Amour said. “I’m ready now. Why wait to make my dreams a reality?”