Dutch Olympic coach: “Sometimes a little gain makes a lot of difference”
The recurve men’s team from the Netherlands qualified in an emphatic first place in Antalya, combining for 2034 points and putting 30 on their score from Shanghai.
Of all of the teams on the field at the third stage of the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Cup, the Dutch team might be feeling the heat a little more than most. The Netherlands is preparing for perhaps the ultimate home fixture – the World Archery Championships, which take place in ’s-Hertogenbosch in just a couple of weeks time.
They’ve prepared by buying all-in to the most gruelling part of this season’s schedule. The Netherlands has been one of just a handful of frontline teams that’s gone to the three first stages of the international circuit in Medellin, Shanghai and here in Antalya.
It’s not just in aid of world titles – but the prize in the sights of every elite recurve programme: one of those eight team spots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games available in ’s-Hertogenbosch.
“Of course I feel some pressure but I think it’s a healthy pressure,” said Sjef van den Berg – who finished fourth individually in Shanghai and Medellin. “It’s not something unbearable I have to live with. I feel I look forward to it more than I feel any kind of stress.”
Sjef was on the Dutch team for the European Archery Championships held in Amsterdam in 2012, so has experience shooting on home soil.
“I think it’s an advantage,” chimed in compounder Peter Elzinga. “I see it a little bit like soccer – the 12th man at a game.”
While the worlds will be a trip abroad for the majority of the 92 nations competing in ’s-Hertogenbosch the Dutch will, of course, not have far to travel. Perhaps that’s partly why the team felt taking on all three of these early events wouldn’t be an issue.
“We know the venue, we know the hotel, we’ve made things as comfortable as possible for the archers, to have a little bit of an edge,” said Olympic head coach Ron van der Hoff. “And it’s nice to have a home crowd, of course. I’ve experienced that myself. I’d really like our archers to be there on the finals field feeling that, too.”
Sjef and Rick van der Ven were part of the Olympic team in 2016 and are the longest tenured archers on the squad. The third member of the team, Steve Wijler, burst on to the circuit two seasons ago by claiming gold in his Hyundai Archery World Cup debut at Shanghai 2017.
The Dutch recurve men’s squad has benefitted from increased depth over the past few years, with several archers competing for the third spot behind Sjef and Steve, who currently form the backbone of the international team.
All four have the talent and pedigree to go deep at these events but it’s Sjef who has been closest to the podium so far.
“Sjef may have been a little unfortunate last year. He ended up ninth a lot of times. Which is obviously still good, but you need to have some of those top eights to gain a little bit of confidence,” said Ron.
“Now I think he’s having a few things falling his way. It’s not a big difference, but it’s a big jump if you like. It’s like when you’re improving at this level, at a certain point the group is so small that everything will be in the 10, instead of getting the 9.9s.”
“You’ve only improved as an archer by a tiny fraction, but the scores improve a great deal. Sometimes just a little gain makes a lot of difference.”
The points Sjef has already accrued for his fourth-place finishes at the first two Hyundai Archery World Cup stages have him in a great position to qualify for Moscow and the circuit final. Which is why Antalya is just an opportunity for the strongest team so far to get that little gain that might make all the difference.
“I think that’s the way we’re looking at it. We’ve all found the points we want to improve on,” said Ron. “It’s easy to say of course. It’s one thing to know what you have to do, it’s another to actually do it.”
The 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships take place on 10-16 June and World Archery Para Championships on 3-9 June in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.