European Games winner Healey, 18, says age ‘no limit’ to archery success

Healey climbs the podium at the 2023 European Games.

Penny Healey delivered the first individual (Olympic or continental) multisport title for a British archer in more than 100 years last week at the European Games in Krakow. The previous most recent? Queenie Newall and William Dod at the 1908 Olympics.

Even factoring in the (outdoor) World Archery Championships, a result this important has been a long time coming. The last Brit to win an individual gold was Barbara Waterhouse in 1949.

Ancient history, in sporting terms.

“I haven’t fully come to terms with it [the win] yet,” says Healey, already practising in Limerick ahead of competition at the World Archery Youth Championships.

“I’ve been so focused on what I’ve got coming up… that I haven’t let myself.”

She might not have thought of the wider implications, nor the spotlight it will bring for her in archery circles and the sport domestically, but she knew its significance on the day.

Healey’s grandmother had recently passed – and the 18-year-old dedicated the title immediately, raising her hands to the sky upon winning, and on the podium.

“I’ve had a few people coming up to me and saying congratulations. When I got home, my family was very proud of me,” says Penny, typically understated.

Over the past 18 months, Healey has gone from complete unknown to winning the Indoor Archery World Series, making two final fours on the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit – plus a debut win this year in Antalya – and now European Games Champion.

She’s of the pure matchplay generation – having learned the sport through the current set system format – and competes with a ruthlessness beyond her 18 years.

Apparently unfazed by the spotlight, Healey delivered another stream of big sets under pressure to win in Krakow.

“You can be competitive internationally at any age,” she says. “There’s really no limits.”

Last month’s circuit stop in Medellin brought the youngest-ever individual stage winner on the tour – and it wasn’t Healey.

“You have Liko Arreola from the USA competing and winning,” she continues. Liko is only 15. “And I’ve met people as old as 60 on the world stage.”

Healey already has to be considered a favourite for the breakout of the award in 2023 – and we’re only halfway through the season.

(Compound teammate and world number one Ella Gibson won it in 2021.)

She’s got to be considered a contender for the world championship, too. Currently ranked second in the world, her 95% international match win percentage so far this season ranks better than all but one of her peers.

Lim Sihyeon, the Korean 20-year-old with two victories in Shanghai and Medellin from two international appearances in 2023, is unbeaten so far.

The senior world championships start on 1 August. The youth world titles will be decided this week in Ireland. They’re Penny’s third – but first as an archer carrying expectations.

“Obviously, every archer’s goal at every event is to come away with a gold medal,” she says. “But mine is just to stick to my processes.”

“Keep my good shot process and perform to the level I know I’m capable of.”