This blog was written by Audrey Adiceom, offering insight into her life as an elite archer with the French national team.

I was in confinement with Jean-Charles Valladont and his partner, Laetitia, for more than three months.

That environment let me train at my own pace, which helped me rediscover the simple pleasure of practice. We motivated each other to train almost every day. I managed to stay on track physically, even with the reduced number of arrows shot each week.

I was torn by several mixed emotions upon returning to the National Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance in Paris on 30 June. There was the excitement of seeing my friends from INSEP again, the apprehension of returning to a regimented system, the anguish of living in a big city like Paris and the curiosity of seeing how my resumption of daily life would go.

My doubts disappeared as soon as I started my first training session.

I enjoyed getting back to the group and the collaborative environment. Little by little, I got familiar with the squad dynamic again – and the mindset required to practise archery at a high level. Seeing my friends was refreshing, as well. It’s a nice group and I really feel like we’re improving together.

INSEP has developed a pretty effective system for training in this post-pandemic world. We receive medical and psychological appointments to evaluate our bodies, reflexes and mental health. Enclosed areas are signposted, and there are bottles of hand sanitiser and cleaning products everywhere.

To comply with health safety measures, each archer shoots on their own target and wears a mask while collecting their arrows. INSEP follows the rules on masks that apply across the rest of Paris so we wear them all the time, except when shooting.

There is enough space between us to ensure that everyone is safe. At the end of each round, we apply disinfectant and wipe everything clean.

 

I feared the worst from my coach when he first saw my shot. I was almost certain that my technique would have deteriorated during the break – but thankfully not enough to affect my strength and accuracy. It’s very reassuring.
 
Still, I always knew a decrease in my training would inevitably result in a drop in the overall quality of my shooting. That’s just the nature of the sport.

But I don’t regret my choices over the past three months of the confinement. I know what I still must work on, and I’ve already made progress in returning to form.
  
Shooting around other archers has been an adjustment. I’m no longer alone with my arrows. I can hear the click of others shooting, and the coaches’ instructions to the other archers. I receive instructions from my coach as well. Being in direct contact with other athletes is a great source of fuel for my competitive spirit.
  
Since returning to Paris, my results during these types of sessions have improved. The days when I struggle are caused by my own shortcomings and the changing weather conditions, nothing more. We are fortunate to have a great field at INSEP. We have the option of training indoors or outdoors depending on what the weather allows. 

When the weather is bad, I make sure to retain the intensity, focus and quality in my shooting. I don’t allow myself to blame the weather on my poor performance. I must be able to shoot well, even when the weather isn’t ideal.

At the same time, I make an effort to be kind to myself – accepting mistakes and not fixating on every wrong step. This is how I work on my mental tools and evaluate my technical skills.

There is no such thing as a perfect week, and the work that needs to be done can vary, even though archery is a repetitive sport.

The proportion of blank bale shooting, target shooting, performance benchmarking, weekly overall volume, the number of times I see my mental coach or psychologist, my rest time between sessions and the time I have to work on my internship – the balance is always changing.

That’s why it’s important for me to take the time for reflection. What am I going to do this week and why? What worked or didn’t work last week? What do I want to work on? And how much?

Over the summer, I competed in three online competitions.

I scored 653 points and 649 points in the FFTA Challenge, ranking third and fourth, respectively. In the Challenge of Saint Avertin, I ranked fifth in qualification with 664 points, finishing fourth after the remote matches after losing Florent Mulot. And I qualified fourth in the virtual tournament of Antalya with 1306 points before losing to Vanessa Landi in the quarterfinals.

I then took part in a real competition at INSEP organised for the elite squad on 2 September, when I finished first with 72-arrow 70-metre rounds of 658 and 657 points.

It was our first real competition since national selections in February – quite a while ago!

 

I managed to regain my physical endurance a little during training. I don’t feel at top form, but I’m on the right track. My shooting and my performance are also evolving in the right direction, which is very encouraging.

I need to get back into shape because that’s where I get my motivation for training. Before the pandemic, my motivation for training was strongly linked to my desire to progress on the international scene and the desire to express myself at my best level at the right time.

Since I’ve been with the French team, every year the outdoor season has set the pace for my goals and my schedule.

At the height of the season, we are always competing, travelling to an international tournament, at a training course or some other championships. It’s a reasonably consistent rhythm, which I enjoy.

These days, we are all living within the lines of a blurred reality and a rather unusual period. And even if the hope of resuming international competitions remains in the distance, I won’t give up. I prefer to take advantage of this period to work on my technical, mental and physical weaknesses and work even harder to build on my strengths.

With less than a year to go to the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and less than four years to go to the Olympics in Paris in 2024. I see both of those landmarks very clearly. As of today, my objective is to collect as many good days of training as possible.

Because I want to be ready when it all starts again.

Content images courtesy of Audrey Adiceom.

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