She calls it her personal bubble, and when she steps inside of it, the rest of the world fades away.
In her bubble, it’s just Victoria O’Brien with her bow and arrow.
You could do a Riverdance beside her and she says she wouldn’t notice, so focused is she on the task at hand.
The target is 18 metres away.
It is a bullseye made of 10 rings.
The only one Victoria really cares about is the one in the middle, a little x, no larger than a quarter.
She stares at the target with icy concentration — every ounce of her zeroing in on that spot.
The bow she wields weighs 10 pounds and when she pulls the arrow back she’s pulling 26 pounds. When she first started archery in Grade 7, she came home with bloody fingers and an arm that ached for days.
She’s not bothered at all as she goes through the process that she calls her ‘shot cycle.’
Feet shoulder-length apart at a 90 degree angle to target, right foot slightly ahead of left.
Arm up. Shoulder down.
Draw the arrow back and breathe out. Think about squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades.
Relax your hand and release.
She recalls the first time she ever shot an arrow, at a school camp. It was a cringe-worthy attempt, sailing 30 metres high and 20 to the right.
She laughs now to remember it, but she kept shooting because from the moment that first arrow left her fingers, something ‘just felt right.’
“It’s like knowing the answer to a question as soon as it’s asked,” she says, trying to put it into words. “It came naturally to me and there was almost an immediate connection where I could just feel where the arrow was going to go.”
What Victoria didn’t realize until she tried it, and what most people may never realize, is that archery isn’t nearly as easy as it looks.
Katniss Everdeen can bullseye a squirrel from three football fields away in the Hunger Games and make it look so easy-cheezy that anyone thinks they can do it.
If it were really so simple, Victoria wouldn’t be at the Abbotsford Fish and Game Club on a dark weeknight when Netflix calls her name and homework needs to be done.
She wouldn’t be in Mission twice a week practising at Starr Archery under the watchful eye of coaches Susan Lemke and Linda Price.
In the week leading up the BC Winter Games, Victoria will fire more than 300 arrows at that target. Of those, 99 per cent will strike within the circle and 60 or so will pierce that little x.
She has become that good, and if she duplicates those results at the BC Winter Games, she’ll be in excellent shape to medal.
But if Victoria is to be believed, she may be the only athlete in Penticton who doesn’t care about winning.
Thinking about gold/silver/bronze or vanquishing her foes just adds pressure to an already pressure-packed scenario.
And while Victoria says she loves pressure — thrives on it in fact — she won’t let the weight of expectations mess with her mental game.
She’s going to the BC Winter Games with less tangible goals.
Victoria doesn’t need to crush the competition to consider it worthwhile. She simply wishes to be better because she was there.
“If you think you’re going to shoot 290 and beat everyone, it gets in your head,” she says. “You shoot one bad arrow and it ruins everything.”
“So, I will have my personal bubble and I’ll stay in it. I’ll stay in my own head and my only goal is to come out this as a better archer, and a better person.”
Find BC Games info online at bcgames.org