Invictus Archers On Target

Athletes test their skills in archery at the Invictus Games

By Brittany Martin

Jack Cummings of Team United Kingdom competes in the archery event at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).

Fort York Historic Site in downtown Toronto has seen its share of military battles, but on Wednesday it was the site of an entirely different kind of battle — a friendly rivalry between nations, as the 2017 Invictus Games archery qualification rounds took place.

Archers shot either compound or recurve bows and had two minutes to shoot three arrows per round for 10 rounds at a target distance of 18 meters. There was a morning session and afternoon session for a total of 60 arrows per shooter. Novice archers, those who have been playing the sport for less than a year, were given larger targets than the experienced athletes.

Following the morning session, Jack Cummings of Team United Kingdom felt he was “doing all right” with a score of 165 in the recurve novice division. He finished the day in 18th place with a total of 342. Cummings will also compete in his primary sport, swimming, in his first Invictus Games appearance and hadn’t had much practice time for archery.

“It’s a great experience, I’m loving being here,” Cummings says. “It’s an amazing atmosphere. Everyone’s getting along, you know, cheering each other on, so it’s absolutely brilliant.”

Ionut-Claudiu Butoi of Team Romania competes in the archery event at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).

The 29-year-old British army combat engineer lost both legs when a roadside bomb he was trying to diffuse accidentally detonated in Afghanistan in 2010.

He was asked if he’d like to try archery during the Invictus practice sessions and trials for Team U.K., and he was one of those chosen among about 50 other British athletes to compete.

“The Brits are doing well,” Cummings says. “There’s an Aussie next to me who’s absolutely smashing it, he’s right up there. I think it’s top 16 [who qualify], so we’ll see what happens. If I don’t, I had an amazing time, I loved it, I’ll try again in Sydney.”

Cummings said archery uses muscle memory, similar to when he shot rifles in the army. Remembering how to position himself and dealing with the pressure of competition, as well as the sun and humidity in the morning session, were the hardest parts for him.

“We’ve had coaching from previous camps,” he says. “It’s all about technique. You get in the right position over and over and over again, pull it right back to your nose, it’s the same power over and over again. It’s all trying to get your grouping and then going around the target … It’s good saying that, but it’s totally different being in this environment, the pressure of everyone around you shooting, the fans cheering, you got the music blaring. Totally, totally different from being on the range back home.”

Cummings was a bit nervous the morning of his inaugural Invictus competition, but he joked that he had plenty of energy drinks to help him keep up his intensity.

“My family’s here to keep me focused, and the team as well. It’s a great bonding connection between the whole team,” Cummings says.

Ionut-Claudiu Butoi of Team Romania has only shot compound bow for six months, but after an afternoon session that had athletes taking wind gusts into account, Butoi sat in seventh place with a score of 558. Butoi was unfazed by crowd or the wind, which he’d prepared for in his practice sessions.

“I have a lot of emotions when my supporters are cheering for me, but it’s positive emotions,” Butoi says through an interpreter. “[I’m not doing] anything special. I’m thinking about what I have to do and doing that.”

Butoi is the U.S. equivalent of master sergeant in the Romanian army and was paralyzed from the waist down when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan in 2008. This year marks not only Butoi’s first Games, but the first Games for Team Romania as well. Archery is the only event in which he’s competing this year, but he hopes to add more competitions next year in Sydney.

“It was very hard because I had a lot of weeks when I didn’t see my family, I had only my wife beside me,” Butoi says. “I’m very proud that I’m here in Toronto, that I represent Romania and even though I’m in a wheelchair, I can still compete and represent my country.”

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