Bristol archer Larry Godfrey on his Olympic experience
Following Team GB's great success at the London Olympics, Kingswood-born archer Larry Godfrey talked to his employer, Rolls-Royce PLC, in Bristol, about the slings and arrows of his Olympic experience.
What's your day job away from being an Olympian?
"Cost Reduction Engineer for Defence Services. I am still working on RTM322 but in my current role I am trying to save the Company £millions!"
How did you manage to work and train in the lead up to the Olympics?
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"After the Beijing Olympics I came back to work full-time and was then granted part-time status for three years. This meant I worked 20 hrs a week with flexible hours which allowed me to attend training and competitions. This is great support to get from your employer."
What is it like training and holding down a job?
"This was my third Olympics so I am used to the working/training/competing cycle. I am back working full-time again now so today, for example, I will work until 4pm and then train at the archery club."
Any similarities between archery & your day job?
"Definitely with the set up and tuning of my equipment I don't settle for any small margins – I want perfection. I have suggested improvements that other archers have made to the set up and tuning of their equipment and they have instantly shot better. I work to margins or 1,000ths of inches in work so to me it comes naturally to apply this mindset to my archery.
"I strive for perfection in the way I shoot which is what I try to do in my day job - constantly trying to improve. We never settle down and just do work here which is how I am when I stand up to shoot arrows I am always looking for that next enhancement and how to improve on my last shot. So I think it is very similar and my work compliments my archery and my archery compliments my work."
What support did you get from work colleagues in the run up to and during the Olympics?
"I've worked with the same great bunch of people for a long time. They've been with me through the three games now so there is a lot of banter but they do support me in my archery and with the job when I am away training or at competitions.
"I also received an email from our CEO John Rishton wishing me luck which was nice and at previous Games I received similar support from Sir John Rose. It's great to know that people within the company are backing you and wishing you well."
Did you receive support via Facebook/Twitter?
"I turned it all off. There was a lot of discussion about using social media before and during the Olympics. A few athletes have come out and blamed Facebook/Twitter for costing them their medals as they became obsessed and couldn't ignore hurtful comments but I'm glad I made the decision to switch it off until after my games were finished. Afterwards I saw all the comments from friends and family and people I don't even know who said that I inspired them to take up archery or to pick up their bow again or to commit to training. This included lots of children who are very excited about archery which is great for the future of the sport."
What was it like competing in a 'home' Games?
"The home crowd made it the best arena I have ever shot in – everyone was firmly behind me. There were some surreal moments – walking out from the practice range to get to my match I had a line of troops either side all clapping me which was a fantastic experience. At my third match there was a group in the crowd all wearing masks of my face and I don't know who they were or where they got the masks from but it was fun to see. I would have liked to have gone through a couple of more rounds just for the benefit of the crowd who were really enjoying the events.
"A lot of the Olympic helpers were friends and fellow archers from around the country. Being surrounded by familiar, friendly faces kept it low key, less hyped up and it being my third Olympics I had more of an idea what to expect. I felt fairly relaxed - the only nerves I had were just a bit of apprehension which you get before competing at any event."
You were knocked out of the last 16 by one shot at the target – was that difficult to take?
"I went out in the last 16 and looking at the scores I finished 9th. I've done all the research and looked at the stats throughout the competition for myself and the four finalists and I was shooting better than the bronze and silver medallists - in fact I was shooting at the same level as the gold medallist. The way the competition is set up and the brutal single arrow decision meant I went out when I did but I was shooting at medal level. I've gone over and over all the data and I've put it down to bad luck.
"I was planning to pull out a Personal Best when it mattered most and I achieved just that I was confident and I knew I was good enough to win a medal - it just didn't work within the setup of the competition. To be ranked 4th highest in the world behind the three Korean archers was a great achievement but unfortunately they don't give out any medals for that.
"My Olympic experiences to date have been ones of bad luck I think. I came 4th in Athens when one arrow was blown by the wind in the semi-finals, otherwise that would have been a medal. I shot well in Beijing but my opponent in the 1st round shot fantastically and went on to win a bronze medal. In London I was shooting well but was unlucky on that last arrow. My opponent had a bunch of line calls which were in, I had a load that were deemed out and then on the last arrow I was hanging a little bit to the right so I aimed a little bit more to the left to give the arrow a chance to get in but still got buffeted by the wind. I looked at my opponent who adjusted and went right and he got a 10.
"Sport comes down to these fine margins. My shot could easily have hit the ten ring – and his could easily have hit the nine ring. That target is 70 metres away and the ten ring is the size of a grapefruit. I did everything I could possibly have done. But of course I'm disappointed I didn't get a medal."
Did you get to go along to any other events as a spectator/supporter?
"We finished half way through the games so we had 7 or 8 days to fill. I attended some events and went around London a bit and the atmosphere was fantastic with everyone supporting Team GB and the Olympics as a whole and flags waving everywhere you went. I did get to see Usain Bolt in the 200m final in the Olympic stadium which was pretty special and is something I will always remember."
Did you get to mingle with the other team GB members?
"I don't know any of them personally but I met a few. A highlight was meeting Sir Chris Hoy and some of the other big names from team GB. We all train in different parts of the country so don't all know each other."
Did you go to the Opening or Closing ceremonies?
"We were warned that the Opening ceremony would end late and we had to compete at 9am the next morning so we decided not to attend. I did go along to the Closing ceremony which was a fantastic experience and as athletes we were right in the middle of it all and very close to all the stars. We were right alongside the Spice Girls and I met Russell Brand – only very briefly."
Will you take a lot from these Olympic Games?
"The competition side of the Olympic Games was still just another tournament which is why I shot so well but the whole Olympic experience was great. Being in London, staying in the Olympic village, walking around and getting so much support from everyone you met and feeling the whole city alive and up for the Olympic games was truly magical."
Are you tempted to try to qualify for Brazil in 2016?
"There are so many things to take into consideration but I am not ruling it out. After three Olympic cycles, which is 12 years of my life, I do need to spend a bit more time with my fiancée, family and friends. We also plan to get married sometime next year, having put it on hold while I was training for London. I am still going to shoot because I love archery. It also depends on what happens with work whether I can go back possibly to part-time etc. If I am injury free and shooting the way I am at the moment – World ranked 7th, European ranked 2nd then I don't see what I wouldn't try to qualify for Rio in 2016."
Are your family supportive for you to continue?
"It has been difficult for my fiancée because I am away a lot at work, training and competitions but she has been brilliant. My dad still comes down to support me when I go training in Downend. In fact he used to manage Technical Publications here at Filton – he's been retired 11 years now. Granddad worked here and an uncle so it feels like a family business working here. I'm the sole survivor at the moment but my daughter has started to show some interest in Engineering so you never know."
We recently reported on another archer within Rolls-Royce who has been doing well at the junior level – do you know Jake Bunce?
"Yes, we both train at the same club in fact I've know him since he was a toddler. Jake is a second year Services apprentice here at Rolls-Royce and he had a great season winning Gold as part of the Great Britain Compound team in the Junior European Archery Championships in Denmark in July with a score only 2 points off the European record.
Anything you want to say to your supporters?
"Thanks to everyone for all the support – work, family, friends and Nuffield Health who sponsored me with gym membership. One day hopefully I can repay everyone's support with a medal!"
Larry Godfrey won the men's archery recurve event at Great Britain's National Series on the last Sunday in August. This was a first for Larry and it sets him up well for the World Cup Grand Final in Tokyo at the end of September.
"Winning this title is a timely boost, and now I can concentrate on finishing the year strongly with a good performance in Tokyo - I can't wait, because I've had a great year, and was so disappointed I couldn't reflect that at Lord's."