Interview with Atle Wold - February 2002

Age 27
Born Trondheim (Norway), resides Edinburgh.
University of Oslo 1995-98 with a year at University of Dundee.
University of Edinburgh 1998 to present.

Atle, you've a tremendous pedegree at BUSA Indoor Champs. In 2000 you were one of no less than four leading gents to finish on 577 and you were also third in 1999 [with 573], but going back through our [admittedly incomplete] records we can see that no gent has sucessfully defended the indoor title since 1982. Are you going to continue that trend?

Probably, as I am not shooting very much at the moment, which is due to the course I am doing, a Phd. As I am finishing it at the moment, it doesn't allow me to shoot as much as I might otherwise wish to do.

Do you think Edinburgh will win the team trophy?

Difficult to tell, as I have not being paying as much attention as I could have done. I don't really know how good the team is at the moment. It's quite remarkable how well Edinburgh has been able to keep up in recent years, or for quite a while, given that you keep losing people every year. It's great to be able to keep up that high level.

All universities, effectively every 4 years, the club is completely turned over. Do you think Edinburgh can continue this level of success?

Well, it depends. We came second in the Indoors [BUSA] last year and afterwards there was a but of an attitude of "Why didn't we win?". That's a bit wrong, because it seems to indicate that we go out to a competition in orde not to lose. There was a indication I thought that the "oh glorious legacy" of the club, was weighing on the shoulders of the people on the line and not doing them much good there. I think there needs to be a refocussing on that we go out to win because we think we're good and we don't go out not to lose because we think we're brilliant. One should try an accept the idea that we might not always win which has been the attitude to some extent before and rather cherish winning than being depressed by perhaps occasionally losing. I think that's a very unhealthy attitude.

Other univerisites might point out Edinburgh's superior practice facilities

Well the range has obviously played a large role and we are fortunate in Edinburgh that it exists, but it still requires the indiviual club members to put in the worthwhile practice time.

As you say, you're in your last year, coming to the conclusion of your PhD and and archery has quite rightly taken second place, but I'd just like to read you out team that Dave [Sewell, Edinburgh captain] could conceivably pick: yourself, Francis O'Neill, Glyn Ball, Matt Nowicki, Andrew Phillips and Tim Mundon shooting barebow. At least in theory and allowing for Francis' back problems that's quite a strong team. What do you think the effect of such a high concentration of post-grads has been at the club?

Well, by the looks of it, that they can shoot lots in the early part of their studies and not very much towards the end, given the flexibility of the course. Beyond that I don't know whether it has much of an impact, apart from post-grads being a bit older and a bit more confident.

More experienced for the coaching side of things?

Well that depends on whether they've shot before. As it happens, some, or all I think, of the post-grads here have shot before, they've not been novices to the sport which they could well have been.

Will you still be shooting for university club outdoors in the summer?

I'm unlikely to be here in the summer so I don't think so.

It's no secret, slightly separately, you prefer indoor shooting to outdoor shooting. Why is that?

Scottish weather. Although the competition I most enjoyed ever was Madrid, the World Student Championships [The IIIrd FISU Champs.] in 2000 because there were really good conditions there and I had no probem with it at all.

Which almost embarrassingly links into my next question. Foriegn nationals studying at British universities compete for their home nation [and vice versa], which is in your case Norway and as you say you were in Madrid, although I guess you hung around with the British team most of the time?


Right, fair enough. How did it feel to carry your nation's flag?

Very nice, I mean, I'm not a particularly nationally orientated person seized by national fever on this occasion. Of course it's quite nice to do. In a way, where I felt very different from, say, the British team, I was there on my own so in a way it was all a matter of me and it didn't weigh on me that I was representing Norway.

So you felt less pressure because of that?

Yes that was my impression. Looking at the British when they were shooting, it's nice to have that back up team to help you with practical things, very useful. But on the other hand, it was also very nice, to stand there and shoot on the line, and not have someone looking over my shoulder, watching my every single move.

Are you going to Thailand?

I have been given teh go ahead by the authorities in Norway, but I don't think I have done enough practice to warrant going. Then there is the financial side.

Quite. As a relatively neutral observer, how would you say is the best way to select the British [Universities] team to go to Thailand this summer... they're talking in terms of some sort of qualification shoot.

I suppose that's how these things are normally done in most places, but you have a qualification before each specific representation. I think that's how it's done on a national level as well. I suppose that is really the only good way of doing it. You could look at scores over a longer period of time, but the form will fluctuate and you'd want some indication which is close to the actual competition.

The one competition we can't get away without mentioning is the British Champs. in 2000. In the qualifying round you shot a FITA 18 [FITA 1] scoring 567, which is a club record, breaking your own club record if I'm not mistaken.

Yes, set a few weeks beforehand. [562 at the Scottish Champs.]

Now that, I believe, put you in fourth place after qualifying. Is that correct?

Yes I think I was in about fourth place together with about 5 or 6 others on the same score.

So you qualified for the last 16, the top 16 gent recurves going into a straight head-to-head shoot. How well do you think you were shooting and had you expected to get as far as the last 16.

No. Basically when I went down there, my aim was to make the cut and go to the rounds. Then, once I'd done that I was thinking, it would be quite nice to win a head-to-head match when I'm first doing it, so I was pretty nervous.

What experience did you have for the head-to-heads?

Nothing. I'd never tried that in competition before, or I don't think in practice either, that I can recall.

From the last 16 you got through to the quarter-finals and from the quarter-finals you got through the semi-finals. What do you remember about your semi-final match.

That was quite interesting, because once I'd got through the first head-to-head, I was thinking well I've really achieved what I was looking for. Anything from now on was all to win and nothing to lose, which I felt was a very comfortable position. Now the quarter-final was relatively easy, compared with the other matches I shot in, because that was my best score and the person I shot against was extremely nervous - he didn't do very well. But once I got to the semi-final it was sort of the same feeling again that no-one expects me to go further. It's just to have a good time and try to shoot good arrows. As that semi-final worked out I focussed, or set my mind, absolutely on not watching the arrows of the other person and just shooting my own match.

And just for the record, the other person was...

...Simon Needham. So I was fairly persistant, completely persistant there, in not watching what he was shooting, just focus my mind on shooting one and one arrow and getting them in the middle. To start with I trailed a bit, so I thought well OK, well that's it really, and then picked up at the end, which I didn't really know until the last arrows had been shot and we went up to count them. As far as I can recall, his worst end was the last one, which I didn't watch.

Did he watch you, do you think?

That was my impression and I shot much faster than he did.

From that stage you, well you obviously went through to the final, against [current world no 2 Gents Compound] Mike Peart, but wasn't it at that stage that certain contriversial events took place?

Yes and no. Someone had come up to me I think after the quarter finals and asked me what nationality I was, and nothing more happened and then it was only after the semi-finals that they raised the issue again. No-one came and said anything before the semi-finals although they already knew that I was Norwegian.

So for final, what position were you in, because you did shoot in the final, but you weren't eligible to win it, is that correct?

Yes. That was strictly speaking a mock final. We were going to shoot it, but I would not count on the score in the end. I believe I got a "token" silver medal but that didn't actually count so 4th place went up to 3rd place and 3rd place up to 2nd place.

How embarrassing do you think it would have been if you had actually won the, well admittedly the token final. If effectively the winner of the British Championships had to be disqualified on the grounds of nationality.

My impression was that the judges drew a sigh of relief when I didn't win the final.

That speaks volumes by itself. I'd like to move on to more general aspects of shooting. You don't show a great deal of emotion when you are on the line, what do you think are the most important aspects of having a good temperment?

If I have one, yes.

Do you?

I suppose I am relatively calm as a person. I try to focus on, well I try to keep my focus on only doing the sport, which I enjoy and strictly speaking, when you're on the line, you're not doing anything else than what you're doing in practice. This is not to say that I can block out the competition scenario at all, but it may be that I am reasonably good at keeping my focus on doing the sport I enjoy. I have the impression that many people hate the sport, when they are doing it in a competition... occasionally that seems to come across.

Do you think, possibly slightly tenuous, that your national service training in Norway had anything to do with this? You can say no.

I can't say that there is a direct link, but National Service does train your patience, in a sense because you are being bullied around and you never whinge. So possibly, but I don't think there is a clear link there.

Now Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt, city rivals of course, face each other three times in the next couple of week, in the SUSF League, SUSF Champs and at BUSA Champs. You've not been following the season very much to date I know. Will you be shooting and have you got any predictions?

In terms of who will win the matches I have absolutely no idea. It would all be specualtion. As to will be shooting, I haven't really made a decision on that. I could shoot although I doubt I'd shoot particularly well, or be much use for the team really [!]. Just at the moment my focus is on the thesis, so it's unlikely that I will be able to put in the level of practice required. To go back to one of the earlier questions of Edinburgh having on paper a very strong team, well it's only very strong on paper then past performance doesn't count for very much if you can't keep it up, then it's a matter of practising a lot, so a "paper team" is not that good.

There are a lot of people leaving Heriot-Watt this year and they reckon it's their last shot at beating Edinburgh [and winning some silverware]. Between you, Derek Burrough and yourself won, well won a awful lot of things last season, can you just remind us of who won what.

Well I won BUSA Indoors and SUSF Indoors and he came 3rd at BUSA Indoors and 2nd at SUSF Indoors, as far as I can recall. Then he won SUSF Outdoors I believe, I was ill, so I didn't get to go to that, then he also won BUSA Outdoors and I came 2nd there. So in the top three for all four of our major university competitions.

I want to talk a little bit about the equipment you are shooting. What bow did you shoot during your year at Dundee?

I shot the wooden wonder to star with. I got the Marksman KG1 which I was shooting at the end of the year, I think by the end of February, so I had been shooting for almost half a year on wooden bows before I went on to that and continued shooting that for the rest of that year, for the one year I spent at home and then in Edinburgh until I got my current bow in Januray of my 3rd year as it were.

I think you've kept a fairly similar set-up throughout your time at Edinburgh, would that be fair?


How important is that set-up, well what is it first of all and why do you think it is right for you?

What I have shot with is a bow with a lot of physical weight on it, as in a heavy bow (but not in terms of draw weight) with lots of dampers. So it's been a very silent bow, which I have found comfortable to shoot with. The fact that it is a silent bow is re-assuring. It doesn't make a lot of noises.

So no rattling?

No. The bit about physical weight was that I felt that made it more stable and lighter to draw, it felt like there was more of a resistance out there. Now I've since come to know that this is not necessarily a well working set-up, but in a more general sense I happen to like the set-up, I was comfortable with the bow. I remember there were things said when I got the bow, like well yes so you'll want to move on to something else and try something new. This was not the case. I have found something I am comfortable with and I am confident with that bow. I think that has been important for me, I don't know if it would be important for other people. It is important for me that I have equipment that I don't fiddle with it. It's set up and it's there and it works. I don't particularly feel like trying new things all the time, I want to find something that works and stick with it. So that has been the case for more than two years, I've had exactly the same set-up. However I have just completely changed my set up completely.

I didn't know that.

Well it's for reasons you've not really covered here. It;s more to do with my plans for the future do you want to go into that?

Yes please. [Atle unwittingly shows up just how much research I really did.]

Last summer I was going to go to the Norwegian Champs. but I didn't in the end because my archery case got stuck at Heathrow. But none the less I went and met people in the Norwegian Archery Associtaion, including the full-time National Coach. I got some directions on what I would have to do, or could do, in terms of getting support from the organisation. It's essentially the choice of, which I could continue to shoot as I have done up till then at a hobby level and with a hobby style or I could come on what they call their "talent squad", where various resources are made available. These were covering of travel costs to training camps and it would mean the the national archery coach will travel to where I am to coach me, so he would come here to Edinburgh for example.

That's a far more professional set-up than exists in this country I assume

It's been brought on by the [Norwegian] Olympic Committee which is the funding body for sports in Norway. They are ruthlessly elite orientated and it's also come in the wake of the terrible performance of the Norwegian team in the Sydney Olympics. If you want really good guidance and you want the resources of the association behind you, this is for good archers, not in terms of general recruitment and other things. You need to follow a certain training program and this is where the talent squad comes in. In return for all the resources made available to you, you have to commit yourself to a program where you shoot at least 10 hours per week, you do fitness training 3 hours per week, you have a training diary, you follow a set-up program where you fill in certain forms on how you think you've progressed, or not, as the case may be. It's at an organised level. You might say professional level, but it's certainly organised. The choice I had was, I could continue to be a hobby archer and that's fine, but then you will not get these resources behind you, or I could try and do it at an organised level and get these resources. Now the set-up was part of this and he [the Norwegian national coach] picked my style to pieces, so since then, I've been working on different things.

Does that appeal to you then, trying this Norawy elite squad?

That's what I'm hpoing to do, provided my job situation makes it possible, as archery is a cinderella sport it's difficult to get sponsors. It's interesting me taking the sport a stage further.

There are no professional archers in Norway are there? Or are there?

No, not at the moment

Would you ever consider moving to the US where there are some?

The idea has never crossed my mind, I'd never thought about it.

Will you be joining the Edinburgh University Alumni Archery Club?

I'm planning to leave the country so I don't think there's much of a point really.

We talked about your PhD at the beginning of the interview. When's that due to be finished?

When I submit basically. I'm hoping to hand it in by June, at some point, or in June. Otherwise I have until the end of this academic year, until the end of September. Really then I have to get it in, get it finished, because that's the end of funding and there's no extension on that. So I'm either getting it in then or not.

Just briefly outline the topic it's about.

It's called "The Scottish Contribution to the War Against Revolutionary France, 1792-1802"


Quite a mouthful. It is essentially a study of British patriotism in Scotland during the wars against Revolutionary France, the French Republic.

Just one final thing. The passion for British football in Scandinavia is well-known, there are a large number of Scandinavians in our leagues. But for how long have you been supporting Manchester United?

I used to be a fan, back in the 1980's when they were not very good.

When they were rubbish.

And now it is more wearing my little badge because it seems to annoy people here. It's interesting that I don't have that kind of interest in football I once had and people here seem to take it very seriously when you wear a badge. Beyond that there's nothing really.

No great significance then?


OK Atle, thank you very much.

Thank you.