Laura Bennett Shelton was named the first gold medallist and world champion of the first 2018 World Archery Masters Championships when she took the recurve women’s 50+ indoor title, beating Swiss Olympian Nathalie Dielen by seven over the combined indoor round.
Shelton shot 1114 out of a possible 1200 points, the total of a 60-arrow 25-metre and a 60-arrow 18-metre round.
“Last night I just lay wide awake. I did very well at the [World] Masters Games in New Zealand last year, and I knew a lot of these ladies. I knew that Nathalie had had a record breaking year,” said Laura.
“There are women from all round Europe that I’ve never met before that can come and kill it indoors. I didn’t come here going ‘this is it, I’ve really got a chance’. But I knew if I was going to do something it would be indoors and not outdoors.”
“I have a very long, very careful shot, which is why I think I’m better indoor than outdoors, because a long shot will bite you in the ass outdoors if the wind changes.”
The fashion designer – and reality TV star – who only took up the sport in 2013, was crowned after a three-way battle with Dielen and former indoor world champion Tatyana Muntyan, which saw the lead change hands multiple times.
She led by six points after the 60 arrows at 25 metres but Dielen’s experience and stamina showed as she gradually crept closer to the lead, with the two archers from the US falling off the pace.
But at the end of the first half of the 18-metre round, Dielen shot a six, putting her back into second place, two points behind Bennett Shelton for the gold.
The last 36 arrows would be a race between the two of them for the title.
Laura started strongly, but two eights in the third end put her back into second. By the end of the sixth, Dielen was five points clear, and looked set to take the title. Dielen, who characteristically waits down the clock in indoor competitions before shooting three arrows fast, was under a lot of time pressure in the second to last end.
On the second arrow she missed, and it handed Bennett Shelton the gold medal.
“I was looking at the scores between each round, but in the end I told myself to stop doing it. So yes, I was well aware that Nathalie was killing it at 18 metres,” said Laura.
“I had pretty much resigned myself to giving up the lead. I thought, I need to focus on a strong finish. But until the very end, I thought I had lost my lead.”
Bennett Shelton’s 564 points at 25 metres, her self-proclaimed favourite distance, were a US national record and a personal best.
“Then, when it came to 18 metres, the gold just seemed so small,” she said.
“In the second half, the jet lag started to set in, and I started to get mentally tired. Not physically, I could still pull the bow. But I didn’t do anything stupid, and I kept an even keel.”
Dielen, the world record holder for the 60-arrow 25-metre ranking round, shot a consistent tournament and finished with the high count for 10s and Xs, but that single arrow in the second-to-last end undid her challenge.
“My goal was that today was practise for tomorrow (the outdoor championship),” she said. “I shot well at 18 metres, but right at the end I was starting to think about the score. I got back into the flow of my shot, but in the second to last end I lost the feeling in my shot.”
“I’m happy for Laura, because she started very well today, and in Auckland (at the World Masters Games) she was leading but she had two bad arrows and dropped to fourth place. This time she did it, so I’m happy for her.”
Bennett Shelton became champion wearing an extraordinary combination of quiver and skirt which she has dubbed the ‘squiver’.
“I spend way too much time making archery clothes, when I should be practicing. I’ve totally been into pockets this year,” she said.
“So I started making these skirts with all kind of pockets. And then I thought ‘oh, I can just make a pocket for my arrows.’ I’d probably be breaking records like Nathalie if I spent more time practising and less time sewing.”
Tatyana Muntyan took third place with 1101 points.
All three women – Muntyan, Dielen and Bennett Shelton – will shoot in the outdoor championships on Thursday in Lausanne.
The first World Archery Masters Championships take place on 14-18 August 2018 in Lausanne, Switzerland.