Tom Hall 24, and Matthew Dale, 25, two of the University of Warwick Archery club’s (UWAC) finest shooters, have been selected to represent Great Britain in the second largest multi-sports event on earth. The pair will take part in this years’ Summer Universiade held in Gwangju South Korea from July 3 to July 14. Hall a Chemistry PhD student, will compete in the men’s recurve event, whilst Dale a Physics PhD student was selected to take part in the men’s compound competition. Being part of a showpiece dubbed the university equivalent of the Olympic Games is a huge achievement, but for a duo who are about to ascend to the pinnacle of University sport, both Hall and Dale came across as unnervingly modest, unassuming and above all, calm.
Both Hall and Dale came across as unnervingly modest, unassuming and above all, calm.
Their journey to Gwangju has been far from conventional. Unlike many of their opponents at the forthcoming event, the pair only took up archery upon arriving at university. Dale explained “both of us decided to take it up when we came to Warwick. We both did undergraduate degrees here as well, I did a 4 year undergrad in Physics and started archery in my second year. Noticing my surprise at their rapid improvement he then assured me “leaps and bounds is a thing that happens in archery.” But this almost improbable progress is especially noteworthy and cannot be downplayed. The pair have gone from beginners to world level shooters in under a decade.
What made such a huge jump possible? They put their success down to the fiercely competitive, yet welcoming environment of Warwick’s archery club. Hall said “it’s really good for taking people in and teaching them to shoot, the core of our experienced team is made up of people who learned to shoot at university, whereas other uni’s rely heavily on people who already had experience before”. Bouncing off his compatriot, Dale painted a picture of one of the most intense clubs on campus, he told me with a glint in his eye “every year we do better than the previous year, we’ve got really good people who come along and want to push themselves to get better and break club records.”
“both of us decided to take it up when we came to Warwick
Breaking club records and competing on campus was not enough however. Hall and Dale decided to extend themselves even further and take part in competitions at the highest level. They got a taste of international archery for the first time last year taking part in a leg of the archery Indoor World Cup held in Telford, an event open to all competitors. Dale quickly explained that “at that stage we were only taking part.” They weren’t content to just make up the numbers for long though. They soon decided to try and qualify for the Gwangju Universiade archery showpiece taking place at a brand new venue from 4-8 July.
“every year we do better than the previous year, we’ve got really good people who come along and want to push themselves to get better and break club records.”
A period of intense outdoor training this winter was described by Hall who said “all the way through the winter we’ve been practising outdoors, which isn’t something we normally do we’d normally be hiding indoors, before adding “we’ve been sort of building up to this for months.” To achieve their ultimate goal, they had to take part in an intense selection shoot held in Lilleshall on April 25 this year. Hall remembered the tense atmosphere at the shoot well “I’ve never been to a competition like it before, you’re being judged completely on how you shoot on one day and you’re surrounded only by people who are really driven and want to win. Most other competitions were friendly but that one was intense.” Despite the intense pressure they did not blink, both managing to achieve the scores needed to qualify for the event.
Looking at the scores it’s not that big a gap anymore, what looked unobtainable before doesn’t look that hard.”
With the competition drawing nearer, it seems the magnitude of the duos’ achievement is slowly but surely sinking in. They both agreed that competing in an event televised on over 100 different stations was a daunting prospect. Their hours spent outside on the Varsity field, shooting arrow after arrow, moving from novices to champions with no one watching have led to this. Dale said “It’s kind of like the culmination of an awful lot of work in the sport. This is my last year of doing archery in university, this is really quite satisfying. How I do? We’ll see.”
“It’s kind of like the culmination of an awful lot of work in the sport
Regardless of their respective end results, Hall and Dale will have left their indelible marks on Warwick’s sporting history, but in typical fashion they still want to go further. They’ve worked hard enough to do the unthinkable so why not completely debunk conventional wisdom once more? Hall seemed to think it was possible. With a serious glance into space he declared “I want to use this as a stepping stone really to see if I can move on to shooting for the senior squad for GB. Looking at the scores it’s not that big a gap anymore, what looked unobtainable before doesn’t look that hard.” With Dale adding “No one I know of has gone from zero, starting archery at University to going on to the GB squad.” They’ve shot for ambitious targets before and after Gwangju and of course after they finish writing their theses, who knows? Maybe they’ll shoot again, this time even further.