Golden girl Penny Healey has Paris in sights

hampion Archer, 16 year old Penny Healey, has just returned from winning a big archery competition in Las Vegas ..

However, this is exactly the type of situation the teenager likes to be in to relax – it is a walk in the park compared to studying for her A Levels after all!

“It’s just a space where you can be yourself and destress from everything,” said the Year 12 student at Idsall School, who is studying psychology, sociology and sport. “It really helps with schoolwork, which can get quite stressful.”

Channeling that calm feeling, the 16-year-old secured the biggest victory of her fledgling archery career amid the bright colors and bright lights of Indoor World Finals in Las Vegas earlier this year.

The event has garnered a reputation for being a bit different from traditional archery – usually held in quiet surroundings – with the lights and noise setting it apart.

“It was such a privilege to have the opportunity to compete and get to the finals,” said Healey. “The lights and the noise didn’t really bother me – it was an amazing experience.”

After qualifying for the knockout stages of the women’s recurve with one of the best 16 scores, she overcame countrywoman – and world bronze medalist – Bryony Pitman in the first round by the narrowest of margins.

Healey then comfortably saw off the Netherlands’ Laura van der Winkel (NED) 6-0 in the quarter-finals and Ana Maria Rendon, of Colombia, 7-3 in the semis.

In the final, she had American world silver medalist Casey Kaufhold on the opposite side, but held her nerve to triumph – despite being ranked just 269th in the world.

“I’m so excited and happy, I never thought this would happen,” said the 16-year-old. “I was so nervous that I didn’t think I’d get any points at all.

“It’s my first gold medal match as a senior. The win means so much, I don’t know how to explain it. I’m lost for words.”

She has come so far in such a short space of time from getting her first taste of archery watching the Disney movie Brave.

“I used to do horseriding but one day I watched the movie Brave, which made me want to try out archery,” she told World Archery. “It all went from there.”

‘From there’ led to a have a go session at Hawkstone Park.

“I fell in love with it straight away and the guy said I was a natural and should go and join a club,” she said.

Audco Archers in Newport was that club and not long after, in 2018, Healey was notching her first international win as a 12-year-old in the under-15s competition at the Archery indoor World Cup in Nimes, France.

Even then she was plotting her route to the top of her sport.

“Penny’s goal is to compete at the Olympic Games,” said her mum Emma at the time.

It is a goal Healey repeats in this interview – but this time with a specific Olympic Games in mind.

“I want to go to the Olympics so I’m determined to train as much as I can,” she said. “Paris is the one I want to be at and I want to be part of the team that qualifies for it.”

Even before Vegas, her results had been improving – finishing 33rd in the World Championships in the South Dakota city of Yankton.

She also recorded the senior and junior national record and European junior record over 70 meters, and became the youngest ever Ladies Recurve National Tour Championships winner.

Working with top coach Richard Priestman, Healey takes on lots of gym work and mental preparation – something that will be key as she targets a place on the national team in the build-up to Paris 2024.

World Cup events and the European Games should also follow this year, meaning she needs plenty of support from her family, school, coaches, sponsors and SportsAid – even if the nerves get too much for mum Emma sometimes.

“They are really supportive and help me in every way they can,” she said. “My mum was on her phone during the final – she gets a bit nervous.”

If Healey continues her current trajectory, there will be plenty more big competitions for mum to get nervous at – and plenty of opportunities for the talented teen to ‘destress’.

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