Stephanie Barrett – Year in Review
How long did you shoot before making it to your first Olympics?
I began beginner lessons in May of 2016.
How early on in your shooting career were you aiming to go to the Olympics?
The Olympics has always been in the back of my mind. I used to do track & field when I was in elementary school and the Games has always been a dream. For various reasons, sport slowly faded from my life for a while. Eventually I found archery and loved it immediately. I think three or four months after those first beginner classes is when I knew. Honestly, maybe a day a week, I took a break; I couldn’t put the bow down and loved every moment of practice. I progressed really quickly. You put the time in, you get the result you know. And I said, “I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna make it.”
Winning Olympic quota
You competed in the 2021 Continental Qualifier in Monterrey, Mexico early this year. How did it feel to be coming back to such a large competition after a year of the COVID pandemic?
It was very mixed emotions. The whole year had been very difficult to find creative ways to keep up with training, not knowing what shutdowns would mean for competitions. I was scared and nervous, but really excited as it would be the first opportunity to shoot outside in 6 months, and the first competition in over a year. It felt amazing to be able to get back outside and to be competing internationally again! The organizing committee did really well to institute COVID protocols and keep everyone safe.
With your second place finish, you earned Canada a quota spot in the Olympic women’s competition. What were your thoughts when you climbed that podium, knowing that you earned Canada a spot in the Olympics?
It’s funny, the podium ceremony was immediately after the matches and I was still in competition mode. I didn’t have an opportunity to sit and let it sink in. And honestly even now, it still hits me; “did I do that?” it was a very intense day. It’s hard thinking back about specifics, but there are many little moments that still stick with me; I think the biggest one was standing on the podium with Tania and just seeing the flags; two Canadian flags up there. It was really, really cool.
How did your training change after winning the Olympic quota spot?
It didn’t really change too much. I had gone into the year with a training plan for each of the various outcomes. So my day-to-day training didn’t really change too much, it was just continuing on with the plan that fit. I did spend some more time working through mixed team practice, and getting to know the guys, who were still in the middle of their selection process, a little better.
How did it feel to be nominated to the Olympics?
It was a bit of a relief actually. Internally, I think most of us knew or assumed, but it wasn’t really official until the announcement was made. But also a bit surreal. Going to the Olympics, representing Canada had been a dream for so long, and now it was happening. Relief, joy, excitement, it was a little overwhelming, in a good way.
Breaking record in Lausanne
May was a good month for you. In that same month that you got nominated to the Olympics, you tied the record for the highest score ever by a Canadian woman in international competition. You earned a 652 qualification score at the 2nd stage of the World Cup in Lausanne. What do you feel you did well to shoot such a high score?
I keep going back to it mentally and remembering, because it was such a great week, not just the qualification, the whole week was really good. I had just come off a lot of individual practice while Shawn and the guys were in quarantine after Guatemala. I had been on my own for a while and trying to keep up the intensity. We did a lot of virtual competitions; I shot at my club at the same time as the Guatemala competition and would go through my whole competition routine as if I were there. The whole week in Switzerland was cold and wet and quite uncomfortable. But I decided that this is my weather. I committed to being wet and to have fun with it. I didn’t let anything get to me and I enjoyed it the whole experience. I did my best to find joy in the small things and have fun in the rain; splashing in puddles and not caring about all the mud I was walking through.
Also in Lausanne, you and Brian Maxwell competed in the bronze medal match, unfortunately losing to Mexico. How did moving so far in this competition help your preparation/confidence heading into the Olympics?
Being able to shoot with Brian was a lot of fun. He’s from BC and I’m in Ontario so we don’t have a lot of opportunities to train together. We made great use of our time in Lausanne, communicating really well and knowing our team process inside and out. There wasn’t a need to figure anything out, which allowed us each to focus on what we needed to continue a good week. Being on the stage, having all the cameras, and doing the extra training on the finals venue practice field for the bronze match was excellent practice for Tokyo as it’s a very similar process behind the scenes.
You were competing alongside Crispin, a seasoned Olympic veteran. Did he provide any tips/tricks heading into the Games?
I had been picking his brain off and on for the last year or two, but even more so in the months and weeks leading up to the Games. We just talked a lot; “What are big things that you may not think of?” or “What can I expect in this situation?” or “What’s typical?” Every time I thought of something, I’d write it down or save it for later and then find a good time to chat about it. He was good about putting up with that, really supportive and helpful. It was helpful and confidence boosting to be able to draw on his knowledge and experience
You finished with a qualification score of 630 in Tokyo. How did you feel about that as a first showing at an Olympics?
Mixed emotions for sure. At our training camp before Tokyo, I was shooting really well. I was comfortable, happy with my shot, and I had some really good results during practice and the virtual competitions we were doing. The first half of qualification went well and I was satisfied. I remember coming off the line thinking “OK, that was alright.” Going into the second half I found myself trying too hard, and not realizing until just before the end of qualification. The result wasn’t where I wanted it, or expected it to be. So, a little disappointed at not performing as well as I knew I could, but also really pleased. Being able to come through a huge event like that, after a long year of travel, after another long year of being stuck training at home at only 3m, and to still be able to perform reasonably average at a big event. There were some really good lessons that I have been able to learn from and build on.
How did you prepare going into your first match against Yasemin Anagoz from Turkey?
Yasemin is a great shooter and I knew it was going to be a tough match. But I treated it as I would any other match. You go in and you do your process; it doesn’t matter who your opponent is. It’s always about what you’re doing, what you can control.
What was your favourite moment of the Olympics?
There were so many! But I think meeting and chatting with athletes from other sports and other countries is a real stand out. Learning about all the things you have in common no matter where you’re from, we’re all the same, and making friends of course. For example, Yasemin and I traded shirts after the competition, and I still keep in touch with several other athletes.
What do your goals and ambitions look like after Tokyo 2020 and heading toward Paris 2024, a mere 2 and a half years away?
Other than the big competitions that are all qualifiers in the chain that leads up to Paris, it’s really just keeping at it for me right now. Remembering why I do it, learning and adapting, and course, finding the joy in the process and having fun with it.
An odd year for sure, you attended the World Archery Championships in Yankton just two months after the Olympics. How did having those two competitions in the same year affect your training and/or performance?
Normally, you’d have a really good break after a competition as big as either one of those; no shooting, no training, for at least a few weeks, if not a month or more. I ended up taking only two weeks off to rest and mentally reset after Tokyo. So it was a quick turnaround. And the first couple of weeks training after the break were difficult; a little more tiring, and a little more stiff than I had gotten accustomed to. I was able to incorporate lessons learned in Tokyo right away though, instead of waiting until after a longer break. So once my arrow volume was back to normal, I felt confident and ready to go.
As a cap on the end of your season, how did you feel you performed in South Dakota?
The qualification scores weren’t great. I found the weather conditions to be very challenging, but I was able to slowly gain confidence shooting in it throughout the week. My seeding was pretty low, which made the matches more challenging, facing off against much higher ranked archers. I am really happy with my performance during the first two matches. The process, the work we’ve been doing mentally, everything came together and the results showed on the target.
What will you look back most fondly on this year? Why?
There’s so many things, you know, it’s impossible to choose only one. I will look back on the whole year fondly! Earning the spot with the two of us on the podium in Mexico, shooting with Brian for a medal at a World Cup, travelling with Shawn and Crispin around the world, the Olympics of course, World Champs with Tania and Virginie, all the love and support from friends, family, the team, and fans from all across Canada.
What’s your training schedule like right now in the off-season?
After Yankton, I took almost six weeks off. So I’ve been back at it since around mid-November. Really just taking it slow, enjoying it, and working on a few technical changes. Our fitness program is pretty intense right now, working through a big strength phase which makes quality time at the range the next day a little difficult. We tend to do a lot more work in the gym during the fall and winter, then, slowly ramping up the arrow volume through the Spring as we get ready to head back outside.
Going forward, what is the next big competition in your sights?
I’m uncertain what my competition schedule will look like for 2022. I expect we’ll plan it out in January and our training program ramps back up after the off-season. I’m really looking forward to the Pan Am Championships late next year; it’s a qualifier for the next Pan Am Games.
What are your goals for the 2022 season?
I think one of the big lessons I’ve learned while having my break is that over the last four/five years leading up to Tokyo, I had forgotten that I had other interests aside from Archery. I hadn’t been making enough time for hobbies while resting and recovering. It’s really easy when you’re focused on the goal, just training and you really have that end goal in sight. I wanted Tokyo really bad and I chose to focus on training all the time. No social, no hobbies, just training. And it was easy while stuck at home during lockdowns, we couldn’t be social anyway. I have so much fun shooting, but all other interests kind of got put aside. During the last few weeks in October and November, I had rediscovered some of the other things that I enjoy doing. It was a good reminder to find some balance in life and make time for some of the other things even if it’s only for like an hour or so.
Thank you Stephanie and congratulations on a great year!