Wow, so much to tell, but where to begin. The Wifi internet connections here at the hotel and at the archery range are very poor and I’ve been struggling to get and maintain a connection. If you’re reading this blog, that means I finally was able to stay connected long enough to post this.
The flight over was as you would suspect. It was an 11 hour, nonstop flight into Zurich. Neither of us were able to sleep at all, so we arrived at 10:45 in the morning and hit the ground running. We were picked up by volunteers from the local organizing committee and whisked off to an ophthalmology clinic about 2 hours away where Mark and I were to receive our international sight classifications which would authorize us to shoot in the World Championships. The process was pretty cut and dry for me since I have no sight. The doctor asked me if I could see how many fingers he held up. I told him I couldn’t see anything. He then shined a light into my eyes and asked if I saw anything. I told him I could see a very little bit of light at the top right and top left. He and his associate then examined the back of my left eye with a microscope very closely. They couldn’t see through or around the cataract in my right eye. Finally, the doctor backed up and said, “okay, I believe you.” He classified me as a B1 archer which means I have no sight and gave it to me for four years. I didn’t get a permanent classification because of the cataract in my right eye. They can’t see past it to know what is behind it. When I have it removed, they’ll be able to classify me permanently.
Then it was Mark’s turn. This was not so cut and dry for him. Because Mark has some sight in the central part of one eye, he had to be put through a series of drills on reading a chart around 10 feet away. The doctor determined that he had too much sight to be classified. When he came out of the room and told us, I thought he was messing with us and just joking around. We soon learned that he was serious. Kerry was in tears and Mark was numb with shock. This was really devastating news and we really didn’t know how to process it. But the fact was that Mark came all this way and would not be allowed to compete. Courtney and Kerry spoke to the doctor for quite a while, trying to understand why Mark couldn’t be classified, but in the end, the decision was final. Since then there has been a lot of discussion regarding the classification process for visually impaired archers. We learned that a visually impaired archer from Australia was also denied classification. So 2 out of the 10 visually impaired archers who had traveled to Germany ready to compete, would not be competing, and 1 archer didn’t show up (reason unknown). The USA coaching staff, with feedback from Mark, Kerry and Courtney and I, have filed a protest as did the Australian archer. There is no rule as to how long the process will take. It makes no difference as to Mark’s competing though. He was allowed to shoot at our qualification rounds this morning, but his scores were not recorded. We encouraged him to shoot to get the experience of shooting with his peers from all over the world and to know for himself how he would have ranked if he had been classified. He would have been in third place if he’d been able to compete. As you can imagine, this has been a very emotional time for Mark especially, but for all of us because we know how hard Mark has worked to get to this level of competition.
Yesterday was official practice for all archers. We had assigned times and this was when we met the other visually impaired archers who would be competing with us. He were given a 2 hour time slot (8:30 to 10:30) and were given our target assignments. I was shooting at target 30 with Roger Rees-Evans from Great Britain and his spotter, Ian. I was able to meet most of the archers and everyone was very excited and we were all happy to meet each other. One of the archers from Great Britain, Steve Prouse, was my opponent in the gold medal round at the World Championships in Korea in 2007. The rest are all new acquaintances. I shot pretty well, but felt really sore and stiff. I had hoped to practice again later that day, unofficially on the practice field, but that didn’t work out.
This morning the qualifying rounds began. The visually impaired archers were scheduled from 9:00 to 12:00. We got up early again and got to breakfast by 6:45 in order to make the 7:05 bus to the archery range. It rained on and off all morning, but it wasn’t a cold rain.
After we got my equipment set up, I decided to go to the practice range to shoot what we call “blank bale” which means I shot close up without any of my sighting equipment, just to warm up my body. The first few draw backs of the bow is usually pretty hard and so I wanted to get that over with before the competition started. It was a good idea.
The qualification rounds determine your ranking. Your ranking determines who you will be paired up with in the elimination rounds on Friday. For example, if you wind up in first place, you will be paired up with the last place competitor in the elimination rounds, unless your category has an uneven number. In that case, the person who came in first in qualifications gets what is called a “by” and automatically goes on to the next round. I shot mostly really well with only a short period of really poor and am so happy to report that I came in first in my division. I will get a by and will move automatically to the gold medal round on Sunday! I can’t believe it, but that was what I had hoped would happen, and I pulled it off! The other archers in my division will shoot the elimination round on Friday and this will determine who I shoot against in the gold medal round. This is exactly where I had hoped to be.
The rest of the week I’ll get some practice sessions in and we’ll watch the other team members compete in their divisions. We’ll be able to get some sight-seeing in too.
Accept for the cloud that hangs over us because of what happened to Mark, all is well here in Donaueschingen. The organizers are very nice and very friendly. The shooting facility is first-class and the food is good. Hoping to experience some German food soon. What they’re feeding us is pretty continental.
There is a church just up the street from hour hotel and it’s bell tower goes off on the quarter hour, around the clock. It’s really a beautiful sound and doesn’t wake me up at night, but I sure know how much I’m not sleeping by listening to the time rung out all night long.
I’m going to go down to the restaurant to try to hook up to the wifi from there in hopes of getting a stronger connection. I hope it works and you all will be able to catch up to what’s going on over here.