Archery is not only enjoying a mainstream revival, it is also a sport in which Great Britain is a real contender for a medal in the London 2012 Games. Heading up the GB archery team is Alison Williamson, who will be taking part in her sixth Olympics. She talks to Justine Halifax.
Seasoned Olympic athlete Alison Williamson’s mantra is to aspire to “always do her best” – and it’s certainly stood her in good stead.
Despite being only 40 years old, the London Games will see her compete in her sixth consecutive Olympics, something that only a handful of people in the world can lay claim to.
It’s an achievement that puts her up there with fencer Bill Hoskyns (1956-76) and javelin and heptathlete Tessa Sanderson (1976-96).
And with a bronze medal under her belt from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and a silver medal from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, hopes are high that she can turn in another medal winning peformance.
In the last Olympics in Beijing, Alison, of Stafford, came fourth. This time around, Alison will be joined by teammates Naomi Folkard, aged 28, and 24-year-old Amy Oliver, for whom this will be their inaugural Olympics.
Alison said: “It just doesn’t get any better than to have the enormous honour of representing my country at a home Olympic Games.
‘‘Twenty years ago, at my first Olympics in Barcelona, I would never have imagined I’d go on to compete in five more Games.
“I feel extremely privileged. I have enjoyed the experience at every Olympics in equal measure – although I have a soft spot for Athens in 2004 because that’s when I won my bronze medal.
“This is the ultimate event that every athlete aspires to and being a part of it is as good as it gets. To be there six times is just amazing.”
Alison’s sixth Olympic Games journey started early last month when she proudly carried the Olympic Torch in Much Wenlock.
She said: “It was an amazing but also humbling experience because the other torch bearers make a huge difference in the world, making what I do insignificant in comparison.
“There was a guy who had served in Afghanistan there and I just thought ‘wow’. It puts things into perspective, some of things people do for their country.”
Alison hopes that London 2012 will inspire youngsters to take up sport, the way she was watching British rower Sir Steve Redgrave CBE as a child.
“Steve Redgrave won five golds in five games, which is incredible,” recalls Alison. “A lot of people say he’s the best Olympic athlete we’ve had. I was in awe of him.’’
The archer, whose parents will both be volunteers at Lords cricket ground, where the competition takes place, added: “I was 20 when I took part in my first Olympic Games.
‘‘Things are different know, 20 years on, but you just learn from your mistakes and you have to keep evolving and improving.”
Alison, who has worked as a primary school teacher, once posed semi nude with her bow in the hope of getting publicity for archery before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
With a discreetly positioned bow, the snapshot, which formed part of an Olympic exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and was taken of her from the back, hit its target and proved a successful campaign.
The origins of the sport date back a staggering 25,000 years.