Lisa’s ambitions? Home Olympics the perfect ‘time to feel indestructible’
ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT is presented by WIAWIS.
After a summer that saw her collect three international medals, as well as qualify for her first Hyundai Archery World Cup Final, French recurve archer Lisa Barbelin is riding high – one year out from a once-in-a-lifetime Olympics at Paris 2024.
Her season began with a team bronze at the first Hyundai Archery World Cup stage in Antalya.
But while the public face was positive, in private there was a warning.
The Korean coach of the national team told her that if she didn’t raise her level, she wouldn’t be going to the Hyundai World Archery Championships in Berlin.
Oh Seon Tek giving the number one woman on the French team such a scolding should be enough to raise more than a few eyebrows. But it’s only thanks to his sharp works, she says, that everything came together “for the better”.
“He told me that at the European Games [in Krakow] and something just clicked,” Lisa recalls. “I’ve made a lot of technical changes to drastically increase my level and I’m hyper-confident in what I’m doing.”
The result was almost immediate. Silver medallist in the team competition at the continental multisport event, the French archer gradually continued her rise to prominence.
“It feels like perfect continuity. Before the European Games, my level was good, but a bit up and down. At the moment, my level is good – even very good compared to before – but in a much more linear way,” she says.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom when June arrived, as the season began with a podium finish at the opening stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Türkiye.
The best result in the history of the French women’s recurve archery team.
“It all comes at the right time,” says Lisa. “Winning medals with the girls has given me an exceptional confidence boost.”
The team journey was bound to have a big impact on the 23-year-old.
At the last stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, which also served as a test event for next summer’s Olympic Games, she delighted the French crowd, riling local support for an arena appearance that culminated in an individual silver medal with deeper meaning.
“I feel I have all the cards in my hand for Paris ,” she says confidently. “Today, I feel that all these events have been incredibly informative and that I’ve been able to find the solutions to be better.”
The Moselle native owes these convincing results to her stubborn commitment, her talent and the ongoing work with her coaches.
“I’m working on being as relaxed as possible, having as few parasitic movements as possible,” she explains. “It’s something I work on every day with my coach Manu [Jean-Manuel Tisoni], and with Mister Oh, who oversees it all.”
The Korean head coach doesn’t speak French, so they’ve developed a kind of slang, a mixture of Korean, French and English.
“He brings a lot to the table from a technical point of view. I don’t have to force myself as much and everything is easier to reproduce,” says Lisa.
“He brings consistency at the top level.”
Despite losing the gold medal match of the Paris stage in the magnificent (future) Olympic venue of Les Invalides in the French capital, Barbelin showed that she is on the right track.
“I feel super strong. I can develop times where I feel unbeatable, indestructible,” she says.
“I often have this feeling when I’m at a very good level, that nothing can happen.”
It’s in this mental aspect that she has evolved the most, in her opinion, from her beginnings on the world circuit to her current results.
It’s a journey that perhaps was overlooked, especially considering one of her first major appearances post-pandemic resulted in a European individual title. The then-naivete of a newcomer to the international scene competing with absolute abandon.
“The Lisa of the early days was afraid of coming up against girls stronger than her,” she admits. “Especially girls from Asia, because I knew they had a level drastically higher than mine.”
The Lisa of today feels that anything is possible.
Barbelin’s performances opened the door to the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in Hermosillo, Mexico. The very first of her young career. A fitting way to end his summer.
“It was a truly exceptional competition,” she says. “I’m very happy and honoured to have had the opportunity to play in ‘the big league’, as they call it.”
“It’s been a really helpful week.”
An experience in which the Frenchwoman was also able to gauge just how far she still has to develop, if she will consistently challenge the world’s best archers.
Her emphatic, 7-1, quarterfinal loss to Korea’s Lim Sihyeon was the proof.
“I put in a great performance in practice and I felt ready to go out and win this match,” she recalls. “And yet I let my emotions get the better of me.”
“I usually have time to deal with everything. This time, I had to be ready straight away and that’s what cost me my match.”
But Lisa learns from loss.
“Without that loss, without the one in Hermosillo, I would not be at the level I am now.”
Now on the strength of her fine summer performances and in the best form of her young career, Barbelin looks ahead to next summer – that of her home Olympics in Paris – ready to reach the top of her game.
Time is ticking, quickly.
She’s putting the work in, day in and day out, to raise her game.
In practice, she’ll shoot 680+ qualifying rounds. And every elite arrow she puts downrange adds another potentially critical match performance to her quiver.
While she’s working on those physical skills, there’s plenty of mental work to do, too.
“I need to find even more conviction and confidence in what I’m doing,” she self-analyses. “So I can be sure that each of my arrows will score 10.”
“I know I’m capable of shooting a 10 with every arrow, but to do that, I’m going to have to detach myself from the performance and focus solely on what I have to do, on the present moment.”
And it will be a big moment. Aiming at a gold medal, for France, in Les Invalides.
Lisa has seen the stars up close, so she’s got her sight set on the moon.
The French public will be there for her in Paris, and they’ll be very supportive.
“Thanks to their cheering, the confidence I’ve gained, the experiences I’ve had along the way,” she says, assessing just how well she’ll be prepared. “If I play all my cards right, nothing can happen to me.”