Countdown to London 2012: Interviews with Doncaster Olympians - Anita Chapman

Anita Chapman, Paralympic archer, pictured at the Sporting Heroes exhibition. Picture: Marie Caley D3724MC
Anita Chapman, Paralympic archer, pictured at the Sporting Heroes exhibition. Picture: Marie Caley D3724MC

LOSING your focus is not something you can afford to do in archery.

But Anita Chapman - Doncaster’s most successful archer - still regrets doing exactly that at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

One of the pictures included in the Sporting heroes exhibition at Cusworth Hall featuring Anita Chapman, Paralympic archer. Picture: Marie Caley D3721MC

One of the pictures included in the Sporting heroes exhibition at Cusworth Hall featuring Anita Chapman, Paralympic archer. Picture: Marie Caley D3721MC

Four years later Chapman made up for finishing second in the United States by winning a Paralympic gold medal in Sydney that she will treasure for the rest of her life.

By doing so, the 59-year-old put Doncaster on the map, becoming one of just three Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists to hail from the town.

Chapman, therefore, is well qualified to advise the borough’s athletes on how to hit the bullseye in London this summer.

She spoke to the Free Press this week about the pleasure and pain of competing at the greatest show on earth.

Anita Chapman's medals on display at Cusworth Hall. Picture: Marie Caley D3722MC

Anita Chapman's medals on display at Cusworth Hall. Picture: Marie Caley D3722MC

And she had some important advice for Doncaster’s London 2012 hopefuls - Sarah Stevenson, Barry Middleton, Jon Hall and Craig McCann.

“I’ve got good and bad memories of the Olympics,” said the 59-year-old former world champion.

“I lost my daughter in the build up to my first Games in Atlanta.

“She was killed in a road accident so I had all that to deal with.

“But on top of that, the accommodation was dreadful. It was dirty and there was nobody there cleaning up apart from a few volunteers.

“I just got my head down and got myself through to the semi-finals, which guaranteed me a silver medal.

“But at that point I made the mistake of settling for silver.

“It was only when I got home and thought about the magnitude of the Olympics, I realised I’d made a massive mistake.

“I should’ve gone all out for gold.

“I thought to myself, I’m never going to let that happen again.

“When you’ve been to the Games once, your mental attitude changes. You go there with experience and know exactly what to expect.

“You’ve got to go with the attitude that you’re going there to win.

“I made a lot of friends from different countries at the Olympics. When you’re not competing it was great to mix socially with all of the athletes.

“But when it comes round to your event, those friendships are put to one side - you focus on winning.”

Chapman, who battled against polio to be the best in her sport, made up for the disappointment in Australia four years later.

She also went on to win gold in the team event in Athens in 2004, bettering her bronze and silver medals from the team events in Atlanta and Sydney.

“I went to Sydney with the intention of winning gold in the individual recurve category - and that’s exactly what I did.

“I remember the quarter final against a youngster from Australia and I thought to myself ‘I’m not going to let this young pup beat me’.

“Those Games were fantastic.

“I absolutely loved it and the memories of winning an individual gold at the Olympics will stay with me forever.

“You’ve really got to go to the Games with the most positive mindset possible,” added the former Harvester Club archer.

“For the likes of Sarah [Stevenson], who have been before, that’s a lot easier.

“But for someone that’s never done it before, it can be quite overwhelming.

“The opening ceremony alone, with so many people cheering you on, is an incredibly emotional occasion.

“And for the athletes competing this summer, there’s the added pressure of performing in your home country.

“There’ll be a lot of expectation and pressure on our athletes. Whoever copes with the pressure the best will succeed.

“The advice I’d give our athletes from Doncaster is to remember they are competing for themselves, not for their teammates, family or sponsors.

“You’re doing it for yourself - and it’s up to you to seize the moment.”

*Chapman was a special guest at the recent opening of Cusworth Hall Museum’s Olympics exhibition.

‘Our Sporting Heroes: A Century of Doncaster Olympians’ celebrates the lives and sporting achievements of the 11 Doncaster-born athletes who competed in the Olympic and Paralympic Games between 1908 and 2008.

The exhibition runs from June 16 to September 2.