Interview: Lina Björklund

The Swedish international opens up to Bow

Lina Björklund is the current World Archery barebow field champion. The 2018 competition marked the third time she has won the world title, with a trophy cabinet bulging with other medals from a archery career that started back in 1997. Most recently, she won the barebow division of the Indoor Virtual World Series in January. She spoke to Kristina Dolgilevica.

Do you set archery goals? How do you stay motivated and driven?

My goal has always been the next big competition. For example, when I’m going to the European Championship — that’s my goal. Since I have a family now, I don’t have a lot of time to practice, so I try to figure out how much time I need before this competition, how much do I have to practise, because sometimes it’s hard to get everything balanced. I have three kids: age three, 12 and 14, so it’s hard for me to practice as much as I want. Therefore, my goal is always this upcoming, big competition, and it doesn’t matter if it’s one year ahead.

In your opinion, how does competitiveness in recurve and barebow divisions compare? Does the friendliness of the barebow community affect it?

Actually, I don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t spend time with the recurve archers and when we’re competing, I don’t look at who’s shooting what, I just look at the archers themselves. When we are at the Nationals, we simply mix and shoot and have fun, but when we travel to, say, the US, there is a different culture there. There’s more like “we are the barebows, we will stick together”.

I also think that’s because there are a lot of us in those events, 200 to 300 barebow archers! But when you come to a national competition in Sweden, there are only 20 to 30. We have a barebow community, but it’s not as strong as it is in the US.

I can’t say that barebow friendliness affects the competitiveness, but I think that perhaps we have a friendlier community because we are going up to the top of the mountain, whereas the recurves are already on the top: they are competing for prize money, Olympic status and so on. Therefore we have to stick together and show the rest of the world that we are good and we can do this too.

Lina on her way to gold at the 2018 World Field Championships

Which competition event that you took part in was your favourite?

That’s a tricky one, but I would say my first World Field championship in Val d’Isere in 2012, where I won the World title. The one that I remember most is Lancaster [Archery Classic] in the US. I like that, especially because last time we were able to shoot the finals and I love the finals, I really do. This last time was like a real competition, also because we have had the prize money. If I had to choose between this upcoming European Championship and the US, I would go to the US.

What has been the most challenging part of your archery career so far?

I never had target panic. Most barebow archers have target panic. Why I don’t have it, I don’t know. Perhaps it is because I don’t spend a lot of time shooting. Because of this “parcel” I talked about, I would say that the most challenging part is to make it work financially.

I have sponsors, but that only helps provide me with the latest equipment. Before I got sponsorship, I had a bow, limbs and if I couldn’t afford to upgrade I would not. If I broke all my arrows that’s it. I once tripped in the forest and smashed my riser against a rock and all the finish went off, it just didn’t look good. But now, I can call my sponsor and say: “I messed up can you please send me another one?” and he will. So, yes, the most challenging part is to maintain the balance in life, work and sport on daily basis, and the finances, because we have to fund travel ourselves.

How do you deal with stressful situations?

I try not to get stressed. When you are having problems, take a cup of coffee, sit down on the sofa and think about — it gives you more than getting stressed. In situations where you can’t take that cup of coffee, say when you are shooting in the forest, try to stay calm and ask yourself: “What’s the worst that can happen?” If you shake on the shot, you miss and break an arrow, what’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps you can think about shooting the next target better, or borrow another archer’s arrow. Just laugh, have a cup of coffee, it will be OK.

Has anyone outside the barebow world influenced your archery career, and how?

At first, I would say no, but on a second thought my father always supported me. He drove me to different competitions when I was a kid; I began in 1991 at the age of 12. He didn’t push in a negative sense of the word, but he always pushed and influenced both my brother and me to continue.

He helped a lot, but he was in the barebow world, so I can’t really name anyone outside that. When I was younger, the adults in the club were my coaches, but as I got older, I didn’t have anyone. Now I am engaged to my fiancé, Erik Jonsson, he means a lot to me and he helps me a lot.

How much time do you spend on off-the-bow training and what goes into your weekly exercise routine?

At the moment, no time at all. I haven’t been shooting since January because I have had a little skiing accident. I went down too fast and I am now recovering from a shoulder dislocation and doing physio. In general, because I have family and work to take care of, I don’t practise a lot. I only practise when I am in the mood, when I feel like practising. I also have multiple sclerosis, a condition that’s with me all the time. I can be clumsy but, as my physio said, because my upper body is so strong I am quick to recover. I can thank archery for that. 

Most of my off-the-bow training is mental. I like to prepare myself for my reaction to what happens when it comes to winning and losing: take it easy, find the solution. Every big competition is being broadcast and I don’t want to look at that video the day after and wonder “what the heck was I doing?” I want to have a plan in place if I fail. 

First of all – take it easy, no one died. Turn towards the winner, congratulate them. Depending on their culture and traditions, give them a hug, shake hands and don’t forget the coach, shake hands with them too. When it is an Italian competitor, give them kisses and hugs. I have this plan for how I will react in different situations and it’s not fake. Sometimes the losers just turn around and walk away, but that’s not the correct way to approach a winner. Show respect, it’s not their fault that you didn’t win. Perhaps you did your best and they were better. Say: “Congratulations! I will beat you next time, hopefully.”

So, my off-the-bow training is more mental; how I react, confront certain situations and my expectations of myself. When I’m shooting Target: “no problem”, 50 metres: “just do it, get it inside”. But when you come to Field and 3D, you must have a plan. You can’t approach 50 metre uphill and think: “OK I have to shoot 655.” The target looks like it’s on the moon. If it’s flat, perhaps I can. If you hit that target: “Well done!” because that’s my Achilles heel, I’m not good at 50 metres uphill. I am always thinking ahead and visualising situations.

Lina: out in the fields

What barebow archery equipment should a developing archer invest in?

A riser. It’s good when you have a riser that fits you, to like the way the grip feels, the colour of the bow, the way it looks. Some like a thin riser, some like a chunky one. I like a heavy riser because the draw weight feels lighter. Next on the list would be a good plunger button. I like the Beiter, it feels smooth.

How did you arrive at your current arrow configuration?

A couple of years ago I was shooting with Easton, but my draw length is so short that I end up cutting off almost a third of an arrow shaft. I have arrows that are 26 inches long, but they are still too long for me. I shoot 42 pounds at 23 ½ inches – you can’t find me on the Easton spine chart. Someone from Easton recommended I use a softer/stiffer arrow. – Do you still shoot Easton? – No, I shoot Victory arrows, 700s. I have the new ones, but I haven’t tried them yet as I only just got them.

You are an inspiration to many young female athletes. What is the most important piece of advice you would like to give them?

First of all, only practise when you are in the mood. If you are not in the mood but still have to make it quick and painless. If you are not in the mood, you are not going to do well. Sometimes I only shoot 30 arrows, but those 30 arrows are the best ones. If you are in your training cycle where technique is your goal, make sure that you put that technique into every arrow. When practising technique, you have to shoot a lot, so that the body and your muscles remember it. But when you have the technique, you should shoot because you like it, you should never force it. 

Your advice to juniors who are mastering their technique?

Focus on technique and have fun! You have to have fun. Come up with different competitions, shoot some balloons and so on. The reason why I don’t shoot as much as others is because I did my homework when I was young. 


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