Inverness archer John Long credits training through Golden Arrows at Merkinch Community Center in Inverness with success at recent Blind Veterans UK archery championship

John Long celebrated an overall win at the recent Blind Veterans UK archery championship.

The 79-year-old, originally from Perthshire but now living in Inverness, claimed a medal every day of the competition to finish top of the standings.

Picking up a bow for the first time after attending a Blind Veterans UK open day, Long showed an immediate aptitude for shooting and was quickly recruited to the Golden Arrows group based out of Merkinch Community Center.

There, the coaching helped Long improve his shooting, and it paid off spectacularly as he won two gold medals, one silver and two bronzes to end the week as the top competitor.

John Long took a medal every day at the Blind Veterans UK Archery Championship to finish first overall.  Picture: Callum Mackay
John Long took a medal every day at the Blind Veterans UK Archery Championship to finish first overall. Picture: Callum Mackay

Long, who is registered blind and was the only entrant to shoot from a wheelchair, was delighted with what he called an unexpected success.

“I’ve won medals before, an odd gold or an odd silver or bronze, but I’ve never had a complete haul over the whole week,” he said.

“I’ve never done as well as this time. I was placed in the top three every day and won the thing overall.

“I was quite chuffed with that. I knew I had two very good shoots, and one was so-so. The other two I thought I had come nowhere, but obviously I was shooting better than I thought.

“I expected I might win on one of the days, but I did not think I would do so well.”

Long credits his success to the coaching he has been receiving at Merkinch.

There, equipment is provided and various different disciplines are on offer.

For Long, he is restricted to the shooting range rather than the outdoors course because of his mobility issues.

However, his latest medal haul suggests it has been well worth the time and effort for him to attend and improve.

“I think it’s down to where I’ve been practicing, and the coaching at Merkinch,” Long said.

“I’m registered blind and I shoot from a wheelchair as well. I was the only one using a wheelchair down at the competition, but I still use a bow sight rather than a tactile sight.

“The maximum we shoot is 40 meters, but that’s still quite a long way when it’s quite windy outdoors, and it was gusting over 20 knots coming off the sea.

“Because I’ve got such a powerful bow, though, it shoots at quite a low and flat trajectory, so it does not get affected by the wind as much.

“I beat the European champion, so it was a bonus week, definitely.

“The Golden Arrows has been running for a while at Merkinch, and I joined a few years ago.

“The coaches there are all Scottish coaches from the Inverness Field Archery Club, and they’ve been really good. They’ve kept an eye on me and given me some advice on things, they’re very supportive.

“I think I’ve been getting better as a result of going to Merkinch and the coaching down there.”

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