Crispin Duenas – Year in Review
How long ago did your archery career start?
I started shooting in 1999, in grade seven. I started with a compound bow and learned that I couldn’t go to the Olympics with it. Shortly after doing my first Ontario Summer Games and really enjoying that experience of multi-sport events, I said “I would love to do this at a higher level”. So I switched to recurve and that’s how I got into high level archery.
What made you want to pick up a bow?
I just thought it looked really interesting and exciting. So I actually mentioned it to my grade 7 math teacher who happened to be a member of an archery club. He then gave me the brochure and pamphlet to the club. That’s when I started Saturday morning lessons and went from there.
What was your first international competition?
Not sure if US Nationals counts as an international competition since technically we traveled over a border, but my first truly international event was Junior Worlds in 2002. That was in Nymburk, Czech Republic and I placed 7th overall.
Your season opener was at the World Cup in Guatemala. How were you preparing for this competition after a year of quarantine and COVID?
The only competition that I had shot before then was indoor lockdown stuff that World Archery had put on and the competitions that Shawn [Shawn Riggs, National Recurve Coach] had run with the team and stuff. So I was obviously nervous. I don’t think nerves have ever gone away from how I feel during competition. Obviously, the nerves will be better at smaller competitions. But the first World Cup after basically two years was pretty nerve-racking. I was still pretty confident, but there were some nerves in there. I didn’t end up with the result that I was really looking for. But the overarching thing in the back of my mind was to get that arrow average for Olympic qualification, which did happen, but I definitely wanted to have a better placing than I had.
You ranked 7th in qualification in Guatemala with a score of 673. That’s got to feel pretty good. What did you think about that?
That was probably not a good place for me to put myself right off the bat in the first competition because the top-8 seeds are protected. So the fact that I was 7th meant that I would come into the competition with somebody who had already shot on the field and had confidence on the field already. I would have preferred to shoot matches from the start.
How was it to shoot a team event for the first time after isolation and quarantine?
We had practiced our team round so much because that was the main focus of our winter. So yeah, it was really easy to do, and nothing really changed.
What do you remember about Switzerland? What went well?
It was colder than we were planning, and rainier. Steph [Stephanie Barrett, fellow 2021 Olympian] shot that one as well. I remember cold. It was pretty funny that I was dressed up in clothing that would keep me warm and when the Colombian archers saw me dressed that way and said “wow, if the Canadians are dressed like that, we’re screwed”. There was still that little bit of pressure, as we’re getting closer and closer to the Olympic qualifying cut off. I was feeling the pressure a little bit more during Switzerland. I didn’t have great elimination rounds. I still shot an okay arrow average, but I was eliminated by the Iranian archer who had the day of his life against me and I couldn’t do anything about that. And I remember feeling a lot of relief at the end of the Switzerland World Cup, knowing that I secured my spot to the Olympics. So that was a relief. But there was a time in Switzerland where I was really unsure of what my summer was going to look like, based off my results. They were going to make or break me.
You went to the final World Cup stage in Paris and got a 14th place finish with a 669. As the last competition before the Olympics in Tokyo, how were you using that competition as a way to prepare?
We were trying to qualify our men’s team for Tokyo so it wasn’t much individual preparation. I had secured my spot individually, but now we’re trying to secure a full men’s team so we were focused on that. The team dynamic, the team round, everything. I think that’s because the little bit of pressure was off, the eliminations went better in Paris than they had at the previous two World Cups. But the pressure was still there for the team round. And when we shot during the final qualifying tournament, the FQT, I think the other guys were feeling the pressure a lot during that time.
You were nominated to your fourth Olympics at the end of June. How did that feel? Was it different than the nomination to your first one?
There was a big difference compared to my first one. The first one was excitement and “I’m going for the experience” type of feeling. This one was like “Okay, I’ve worked my behind off for this”. I’ve worked for many years and we had a postponement of a year. So it was time to go. And I’ll give it everything because who knows if I’m coming back for the next one. I was excited for sure. It was an excitement to really put my training to the test – everything that I had been working on to make sure that I was doing everything right.
After Paris, am I right that you, Stephanie, Shawn and Alan went to Turkey to train alongside their archers? What did you work on while you were there?
I worked on more mental stuff. We had done all the physical work, and there wasn’t an issue or anything else I needed to improve. But the mental fitness was definitely one of the things that was a challenge in Turkey. One of the things that I think really helped was the fact that Turkey was ridiculously hot, especially when we were there. So it was sometimes a challenge to keep your focus when the sun was beating down at 40 to 45 degrees out there and the humidity was up near 80%. So it was a really good training for Tokyo because it made us feel a bit more comfortable. I’m not sure about Shawn and Steph, I can’t speak to what they were feeling. I have spent years training in Florida already; I was one of the first archers who started going down during the wintertime to Florida to train. I already had all these methods of keeping myself cool and was used to the heat. But it was definitely nicer to train in that condition before the Olympics, and also to train with the guy who was eventually going to be the Olympic champion.
In Tokyo, you shot a 665 and landed 16th in the qualification round. How did that score feel compared to your qualification scores in other Olympics?
I was actually a little relieved for the 16th place, whereas that score in other Olympics would have been a little bit more of a disappointment. The relief came from the fact that again, the nerves kicked in. I had only been to three competitions the summer before the Olympics, right? I didn’t get very much practice in managing my nerves, whereas in a normal year, I would have probably gone down to the States and shot all of their circuit as well. So in a normal year, I probably would have had 8-10 competitions under my belt before getting to that point in the year. It didn’t give me much time to figure out how to manage my nerves, especially after a two year break from competition because of COVID. It took a toll on some of my shooting because it wasn’t up to par. But the fact that I ended in 16th was actually kind of a relief; I thought “Okay, if I was feeling those nerves, I think a lot of other people were”. The scores were generally pretty low. There was actually a report done on how low the scores were.
Did you feel prepared for your first elimination round against the Moldovan archer?
I felt prepared, I actually shot against Olaru back in 2015 and won. And that actually, coincidentally, was the final qualifier for an individual spot for the Rio Olympics. We shot our match together and I beat him 6-0. It was a little bit of a one-sided match, an upset for sure. So I had that memory of shooting against him and I remember that it felt good. I had that under my belt and I think that gave me more confidence in myself as well. I felt prepared and had that confidence of knowing that I have beat him in the past. It’s a good motivator for sure.
You had some tight matches in the Olympics. How do you remain calm during close matches like those ones?
Nerves come into play a lot during those types of matches but you manage them by like, obviously, having more practice in them and being able to feel confident about them or focusing on a singular goal instead of focusing on needing to win this match. So that brought me to my second match. And I knew that the guy I was facing in my second match was a guy from Bangladesh who has a pretty good track record. I knew that I just needed to focus on my short timing, my execution and not really worry about anything else and know that my equipment is good. My mentality is good. I just needed to execute everything that I’ve been doing up until that point, and I think that was an upset match as well. According to his history and arrow average at that time, I think he should have had the upper hand in that match. But that stadium was causing havoc to a lot of archers because of the wind inside the stadium.
I believe you were 9th in the end, after your quarterfinal. How did that feel to be 9th in the world?
When I lost that round, I was 9th, so yeah, top 10. It is actually the best showing for Canada during the Olympics with the elimination round as the determinator. The archery format changed several Olympics back, I think back in ’92. I think we had an archer, back in the old format, I think a female placed fifth at the Olympics [Lucille Lemay, 5th place in Montreal 1976]. I was luckily able to come out nicely. I know that I could have probably done better. But that’s just me. I’m pretty happy with it.
Note: At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Jay Lyon was also eliminated in the third round of the Match Play competition, officially finishing 10th overall. In 2012, the Olympic format changed to Set Play competition. Under the current format, all archers not advancing past the third round of competition are awarded a 9th place finish in the official results.
What did your archery schedule look like after Tokyo – rest, practice, etc.?
Right after Tokyo, I took a little bit of a break from shooting. I didn’t stop completely, but I wasn’t out every single day like pre-Tokyo. Got out on my road bike a little bit more, I really enjoy cycling. I went on a really nice 100-kilometre cycle in Gatineau Park with my sport psychologist. It’s the first time I’ve ever crossed over a provincial boundary not in a car. We did a bunch of zigzagging over the Quebec-Ontario border. And after that I went back to Tokyo, because I was the announcer for the Paralympic Games. I then went to the States because my sister-in-law was getting married. My wife and I met up in the States; we hadn’t seen each other since April and it was late August by that point. The day after we arrived back home in Toronto, I got called into supply teach at the school that I’ve been working at. It turned into a full time position. I’m currently teaching grade 10 math. So I’ve been working full time since getting back from the States. I haven’t stopped. A lot of people don’t have something after the Olympics, I’ve been very fortunate to not have that issue.
Looking back, what is your fondest memory from the Olympics?
I think the realization that no matter what I did, I was still going to have the best finish at the Olympics for a Canadian. It was a really good feeling. The excitement was really nice. And I’m glad I had a few days between my second and third match to be able to just come down from that high and just centre, focus and get back to the task at hand. That was definitely a good feeling of “Hey, I’ve done a good job”. No matter what you do, it’s still going to be a good job. So I loved that feeling. I really am happy with how I did.
What’s your fondest memory from the year overall? Your career?
Definitely one of my top moments was the World Championships medal in 2013. I won a bronze and that was Canada’s first World Championships medal in 40-something years. I knew in that competition alone I faced all three medalists from the 2012 Olympics of the previous year. I was pretty happy with that because I beat two out of three medalists from the Olympics, so that’s definitely a fun memory. Another memory that’s more recent was a couple years ago, I shot an indoor competition in Rome, the gold medal match against Brady Ellison from the States. And I actually shot a perfect score in the gold medal match against him. All 10s. So he couldn’t touch me on that one.
Looking forward now, what are your next big goals?
I know I’m not going to be competing with Team Canada for the World Cups this coming summer. I’m not on their World Cup roster. That’s going to allow me to do more competitions in the States and get that repertoire of competition under my belt again. I’m going to be working full time until June. I’ll still be shooting every week at least because it’s a fun activity that I like to do. And also I will keep cycling. And in 2024, we’ll see if I’m eligible to make it onto that Olympic team again because Olympics #5 would definitely be a nice thing to have.
Thank you Crispin and congratulations on a great year!