John Walker and Jo Frith are the Paralympic W1 mixed team champions – and their achievement has crowned one of the most remarkable 24 hours in the history of British archery.
John kicked things off last night when he beat David Drahoninsky to win W1 individual gold. Then Jess Stretton, Jo Frith and Vicky Jenkins kept up the momentum with clean sweep of individual W1 gold, silver and bronze. Now John and Jo have added mixed team gold, bringing archery in Britain to a fitting close.
And they did it in style. The top seeds had a bye into the semis were they faced the Czech Republic – and John and Drahininsky went head to head once more. The Britons took the first two ends, building up a 12-point lead before the Czechs pulled back, managing to win the third. But then Jo and John took won fourth by seven points, romping to a 144-128 win and a place in the gold medal final.
There they faced Kim Ok Geum and Koo Dong Sub, the Korean second seeds who had dispatched China and the USA to earn their place. But Jo and John had their sights firmly set on gold and took a three-point lead in the first end, which built to five in the second. Korea cut that lead back to three by winning the third end 35-32 but gave in to the inevitable is the fourth, putting two arrows into the five and gifting Great Britain a 139-129 victory.
Three golds. That, plus compound mixed team silver for John Stubbs and Jodie Grinham, Jo’s W1 silver and Vicky’s bronze, put Great Britain at the top of the Rio Paralympics archery medals table.
And it completed a proud day for British archery. The feel-good factor start last night, when John won Great Britain’s first archery gold. It continued this afternoon as Jess, Jo and Vicky dominated the women’s W1 competition.
After winning gold, Jo told World Archery: “I was exhausted after winning silver this morning but I managed to grab half an hour’s sleep and then went back on the practice field with John. But in the end we shot brilliantly. It’s the final title for our collection: Paralympic, world and European champions.
“We’ve shot together for a long time. We’ve got the three titles. We’re very comfortable with each other in the way that we shoot and the timing of our shots. We complement each other. So to come out here and win a medal is just the icing on the cake.
“And it shows that British para archers are the best in the world, particularly in the W1 category. We’re streets ahead of everyone else. The hard work we put in week in, week out, with the funding, we’re able to practice our mixed team. That’s why we’re so slick, so comfortable.”
And John admitted that last night’s gold win had a knock-on effect today. “I took absolutely loads of confidence from it. The difference here is that we only have 20 seconds per arrow to shoot and, unfortunately, I shot a six. The wind just caught my arm. It happens.
“This means the absolute world to me. I started this as a hobby back in 2013 and to achieve this is beyond my wildest dreams.”
And he thinks Britain’s achievements in Rio will lift the profile of para-archery. “I’m one of those people hoping we are going to get a para-archery world cup,” he said. “We’ve got countries to host the events and para-archery is growing year on year. Watch this space.”
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