Archer Hazel Chaisty admits she is starving hungry for her chance to shoot on the sport’s biggest stage after missing out in 2016.
The 47-year-old suffered a neck injury ahead of the Rio Paralympic Games three years ago, and despite competing at selection shoots, couldn’t quite find the form required to qualify for her first Paralympics.
But having only made her international debut two years before the competition in Brazil, the Glossop-based athlete believes her absence from the Games was somewhat a blessing in disguise.
Now, she is a seasoned competitor on the global stage, and after four years preparing for her Paralympic opportunity, Chaisty is eager to grab her chance with both hands in her bid to head to Tokyo.
“I was nowhere near ready for it in 2016,” she said, speaking at a Sainsbury’s store in Salford. “I would’ve known I hadn’t performed to the best of my ability if I’d gone.
“It can be hard hearing how much fun people had in Rio, and most of the team were over there, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’ve slowly built my game up over the past few years.
“Even though I didn’t compete in Brazil, UK Sport saw I had potential for Tokyo so I went there on a Paralympic Inspiration Programme to experience the demands of the Games and heighten my chances of success next summer.
“I’ve given so much up over the past four years – such as holidays and friends’ weddings – because the Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of what we do and I’m desperate to make it to the Games and do as well as I can.
“For the whole cycle my aim was to qualify a Paralympic quota spot for the team and I did that at the World Championships in June. Now I just need to make that spot mine and keep improving in the months ahead.”
Chaisty has enjoyed the best year of her career in 2019, climbing to fifth in the women’s recurve world rankings, as well as claiming an individual gold and mixed team silver at the Fazza Para Archery World Ranking Tournament in Dubai in April.
And with less than a year to go until the Paralympics, she is confident she can continue her swift progress in the months ahead and ultimately compete with the world’s best where it matters most.
“I’m as good as I’ve ever been, but I think I’ll be even better next year. I can just feel it coming on all the time, getting better and better,” added Chaisty, who was helping to promote Sainsbury’s role as longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all.
“A couple of years ago, I would’ve just been happy to one day call myself a Paralympian, but now I really want an individual medal, as well as success in the mixed team event with my partner Dave Phillips.
“Some of the other archers are excellent, but anyone can shoot a bad arrow and that’s all it takes in a big competition.
“I get Goosebumps when I think of pulling on the GB shirt in Tokyo, and I’ve got my head down now to make sure I get the spot on the plane with glory on my mind.”
Sainsbury’s is the longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers live well for less has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit https://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/