The lonely, contemplative existence of the perfectionist archer
Standing in the same spot for three hours, alone and entwined with his thoughts while attempting to drive arrows into a large orange 70 metres away is what Crispin Duenas likes to do, everyday.
“People call it insanity, because we’re doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results,” says the two-time Olympian.
It’s all in the fingers
Duenas will stand in a field up to eight hours per day. Incessantly shooting. Training. Duenas says shooting a recurve bow isn’t terribly difficult for the body. The trickiest part is in full draw, requiring 52-lbs of pressure from the three middle fingers which then have to relax in concert, to release the string.
“Archers have to take years learning how to relax their fingers consistently under every possible condition,” said Duenas who is the best male archer Canada has ever had, with his bronze at 2013 World Championships.
Without total relaxation the string deviates, sending the arrow askew. The bulls-eye is 12.2 cm in diameter and about a city block away. Duenas estimates if his fingers are off by 1 mm in any direction, he misses.
Get in your head
“The physical aspect of archery I’m positive anyone can do but it’s the mental side of archery that’s the most difficult thing,” says the 29-year-old who has spent half his life figuring himself out.
“Score is what matters, how you deal with the score in your head is what makes you the better archer” – Crispin Duenas
The second phase of an archery competition is head-to-head elimination. Three arrows to shoot the highest score from the 10-ring target. A win is worth two set points and it’s the first archer to six points, after multiple sets. If archers are tied at five set points there’s an old-fashioned shoot-off, no joke, closest arrow to the centre wins.
Imagine doing that for a gold medal.
Duenas has dealt with himself over the years. He works with renowned sport psychologist Peter Jensen. They re-engineered the way his thinks and how he frames every moment. He runs, so his heart is stronger and he can breathe better when he shoots.
Duenas might be selling himself short. In training, 1,800 arrows per week multiplied by 52-lbs of pressure to pull the string is over 93-thousand pounds. (Next time you’re at the gym try picking up a 50-lb dumbbell with your three middle fingers)
And he hangs out at the range, day after day, because there’s always a better score. The qualification round of an archery competition is 72 arrows for a best score out of 720.
No one has ever done that. No one’s even broken 700, the record is 699. Duenas’ personal best is 690.
“It does sound lonely, it does sound tedious, it does sound mind-numbingly boring but to a full-time archer it’s that drive for perfection that keeps us going,” he says.
Crispin Duenas is looking ahead to TO2015 as his next big competition. He won silver at 2011 Pan American Games.