I still get giddy like a child sometimes. I’m not ashamed of it. It makes me feel alive and young. Seven days, one week, until I head to the IBO World Championships and I have a million things running through my mind – the tendonitis in my arm hurts, can I shoot well enough despite not practicing like I did last year, what will the weather be like, can I pull it off and a million more things go racing through my mind.
Last year I flew into Baltimore and my friend, Paul Vogel, picked me up. We drove from there, up into the Adirondacks, together. It was a beautiful drive. I stared out the window and again a million things went through my mind – self doubt, hope, fear, confidence, pride. We arrived and checked into the hotel then went to register. There were hundreds of Hoyt and Matthews shirts draped on shoulders of shooters from all over creation. Excitement tingled through every inch of my body as we received our shoot times and warmed up. Archers eyed one another at the practice bales wondering who would pull it off this year.
I warmed up the next morning with one goal: to figure out how to hold my bow arm still despite adrenaline surging from head to toe. I joined my group at the start tent and rode to the top of the mountain on the chairlift. We turned in our cards and waited to be called. I was nervous. I had to pee. I looked down off the mountain at the ski lodge in the valley below and wondered if I would walk into that building happy, sad or frustrated in a couple of hours. “Control yourself Blackmon,” I commanding myself. Control was my watchword. “Don’t blow this by getting too worked up,” I told myself. I had spoken to my coach, Rod Jenkins, the night prior and he told me, “Jimmy, nothing should seem stressful after tracer fire.” He was right but it was present and it was real. They called our group and assigned us to our range. I was nervous. I had to pee again.
We walked to target one and I tried to see if others were as nervous, excited, edgy, anxious, jumpy, on edge as I was. No way to tell for sure, but surely so. We drew cards to determine the order of shooting and lucky me was up to shoot first. “Take your time and control the shot. Overcome the nerves,” I told myself. I estimated the yardage, glassed the target and picked a spot. I drew and put the point right on the 11-ring. Push, engage the lat, pull, pull, pull, pull – the arrow was away. I shot a 10 on the first target, “YES!” From there it was a blur target by target. At the end of round one I knew it was tight, but I felt like I had held my own. I could hardly control myself as scores were added up. Two of us were leading and had a bit of breathing room.
Day two I was more in control and emerged with a 5 point lead. On the final day we would only shoot 10 targets and my goal was to shoot defensively. Don’t lose anything. No sleep all night. I was a wreck. I warmed up well the next morning. It finally occurred to me that this was a definite possibility. Off to target one. I matched my competition target for target and picked up 5 more points. I approached the final target – a mule deer. I was up first. All I had to do was hit the target and I’d win. I shot a 10 and experienced a feeling that I can’t put into words. What a sense of accomplishment. What an achievement. The second place archer, a former world champion, was the first to congratulate me. He knew what it felt like. We both know what it feels like and it’s a good feeling. We’ll both be back to try and feel it again this year. Seven days till I fly. Eight days and I’ll feel nervous, excited, edgy, anxious, jumpy, on edge and loving every second of it.