“I want to be perfect all the time” – the return of Inna Stepanova
A ferocious competitor, Russia’s Inna Stepanova was a key part of the powerhouse Russian recurve women’s team that took the world championship team title at Copenhagen 2015 and followed it with silver at the Olympics in Rio one year later.
She then disappeared from the archery world for a little while.
“I got married after the Olympics and gave birth to a baby. I got back into the team last year, but that wasn’t so successful for me, so I’m working on myself and trying to improve,” said Inna.
“Archery is my life. I can’t do without it. And of course we took a second place [in Rio], so I was left with the feeling that we could do more, that I could do better. That’s why I continue.”
It will be a challenge for the Russian ladies to repeat a podium performance in Tokyo with an increasing number of exceptional women’s teams on the circuit.
They did already qualify quota places after finishing sixth at the 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships.
“What’s important is that we did what we were supposed to, which is get the places [for Tokyo],” said Inna. “As for the individual [competition], it needs some work.”
The 29-year-old’s best individual results to date include Hyundai Archery World Cup stage victories in 2011 and 2013. She has had heaps of team podiums over the years, too.
Stepanova qualified in fourth place at the 2019 European Games in Minsk, Belarus. She had little trouble dispatching her first opponent, Maeve Reidy of Ireland, in straight sets with three arrow series of 29, 27 and 27 points.
She was characteristically hard on herself.
“I think my performance today was satisfactory, and I’m getting ready for tomorrow,” she said after the match. Stepanova’s campaign in Minsk ultimately ended with a 6-4 loss to Italy’s Tatiana Andreoli in the quarterfinals.
“Ultimately, I’m getting ready for Tokyo. I need to work on my shooting. I want it to be right, even if I don’t get to the finals. I want to be perfect all the time.”
The Russian recurve archery model involves lengthy training camps around the world. It’s something that is difficult to reconcile with being a parent.
“I spend so much time away from my family. I haven’t seen my daughter since 13 May. It’s like, everything I do now, I do not only for me but also for her,” said Stepanova. “For me to be an example for her. So that she will say her mother is the coolest person.”
If she makes the team, Tokyo will be Inna’s third consecutive Olympic Games.
“If I had another chance at life, even if I had 100 million chances, I would do archery again,” she said. “It’s given me everything that I have. Because I found myself in this sport.”
Thanks to Anna Chizhikova for assistance with translation.
The archery competitions at the 2019 European Games take place on 21-27 June in Minsk, Belarus.