One step at a time as world-number-five Pitman returns to field course

Bryony Pitman at the 2022 World Games

There is unfinished business for Britain's Bryony Pitman at the World Games after her debut appearance in 2017 saw her seed fourth, but end with a loss in the pool stage.

“I shot really well at my first World Games [and] I am kind of hoping to replicate that here or do a bit better,” said Pitman after placing second halfway through qualification in the recurve women’s field archery competition on Sunday.

After the remaining arrows had been shot, she had cemented her second seed with 353 points for the 12 marked and 12 unmarked targes, behind only Germany’s Elisa Tartler (366). That meant a direct ticket to the semifinals.

Just one win will confirm a medal at this event – but in her own words she could have done “…a bit better”.

There is always room for improvement. But 25-year-old Pitman has clearly improved this year. The current world number five recurve woman recently won the first stage of the 2022 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya, having competed at her first Olympics for Great Britain in 2021.

Her pedigree also stretches to the field course, with medals stretching back a decade.

When she was just 15, Pitman won youth team gold at the 2012 World Archery Field Championships in Val d’Isere, following that up in 2016 with youth silver at the World Archery Field Championships in Dublin at the age of 19.

She had been one of the favourites to win a medal at the last World Games held in Wroclaw in 2017. But it did not work out as fellow British athlete Naomi Folkard denied her a place in the final four by winning the last of the shoot-up elimination matches in the pool. (“I just missed out on making the semifinals the last time,” said Bryony.)

Now, in Birmingham, Pitman looks confident and relaxed on a course which has been met with positive reviews. It provides not only some steepness to test their skills, but a chance for fans to follow shooting from a convenient perspective. 

“My first impressions are really good. Course-wise, [here] is a lot better [than 2017],” explained Pitman. “In Poland, it was good, set in a park as well, but it was a bit flatter. Here they have made really good use of what they have.”

“The first targets were really good and enjoyable. The way they were laid out and the fact that some can be seen by spectators is great.”

Bryony Pitman shooting at the 2022 World Games

Pitman only needs to win two matches to take the title here. It won’t be easy.

“It is a tough category, but I would like to think that I have the potential for a medal,” she said, before comparing the different disciplines of recurve that she shoots. “It is more exciting than target archery. You change the distance every time, you have to think about what you are doing, especially on the unmarked rounds, looking for crosswalks.”

For those who don’t have unmarked experience, she’s referring to looking for pavements – or other landmarks – between her and a target so that she can use them to guess the distance. For one half of qualifying, which is 12 targets,  the archers aren’t given a length to the target by which to set their sights.

“It keeps you thinking and it is just nice that you go for a walk around a nice area, not being stuck in the field shooting the same distance all over again,” she said.

Archers do not spend so much time practising field archery as the target discipline in general. Major internationals don’t come around that often, but Pitman has been trying to prepare herself the best she could, especially since the World Archery Field Championships are also scheduled for later in 2022.

“I do not practice much field archery. It is normally just competitions or if I have a big event coming up like this one or the world championships,” she explained. “I try to get to some course that is a couple of hours away and practice some slopes.”

Slopes, the trap for many an inspiring field archer, the rise and fall of the landscape which makes holding proper technique more difficult – as well as adding decision making. A steep 50-metre target will shoot much shorter – but just how much?

“It is more about remembering how to shoot the slopes well, what are the mistakes I can make and how to avoid them,” said Bryony.

She avoided making those mistakes on Sunday.

Pitman will now face a show match against the top-seeded Tartler on Monday morning to decide who she will face in their respective semifinals after the shoot-up eliminations pools. And she will hope she can do a little bit better again.

Competition at the World Games continues with recurve elimination matches on Monday.