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Path to the Olympics

For Winnipeg archer Lyon, road goes through Montreal

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Jay Lyon is itching to get back to the Olympics.

At least, what's left of him.

The Winnipeg archer -- who garnered national attention with a surprising 10th-place finish for Canada at the Beijing Summer Games four years ago -- now has his sights trained on London this summer.

This weekend, Lyon is bound for Montreal, where the Canadian archery trials will determine who will fill Canada's lone berth at the 2012 Games.

Here's the rub: Lyon earned Canada a spot in London with a record-setting fifth-place finish at the 2011 World Championships in Turin, Italy. However, now he'll have to fend for himself in an open competition at the trials to punch a ticket to London.

"That's the thing that sucks with only having one individual spot," said Lyon, who was Manitoba's Male Athlete of the Year in 2008. "They put the trials in place to keep everybody happy."

Although ranked No. 1 in the country entering the trials, Lyon's main rival, Crispin Duenes, will provide stiff competition in Montreal. Lyon and Duenes were both members of Canada's three-man team that also finished 10th in Beijing.

"It's probably going to be as stressful and intense (as the Olympics)," Lyon said, of the trials. "It's do-or-die."

Ironically, Lyon said the world championship, where he earned the Canadian Olympic berth, was also more nerve-wracking than Beijing. After all, there were only 64 individual competitors in China, but over 600 at the Worlds. Said Lyon: "If you don't perform there, you don't get to the Olympics, period."

Lyon excelled in Turin with a Canadian record score of 1,350.

If Lyon doesn't prevail at the trials, he can still qualify for the team competition at an event this June in Salt Lake City, Utah. But with the individual berth, Lyon would be the first Manitoban to officially qualify for the London Games.

To that end, Lyon has beefed up his training regimen while paring down his body-- a total of over 50 pounds over the last year.

"I wasn't eating right, drinking beer," he said. "The human body is like a fine-tuned Ferrari and I was putting in no-name fuel and cheap oil. It doesn't matter how unathletic people think the sport is, having a good fitness level and treating your body properly will help you compete.

"My attitude toward that (fitness) has changed a ton," Lyon added. "I haven't touched junk food since October."

Once topping out at 240 pounds, Lyon is down to 187 (from 22 per cent body fat to 13 per cent). Along with high-cardio training, Lyon is shooting between 250-350 arrows a day. "I definitely think I'm in the best shape of my life now," he said.

Due to Lyon's showing in Beijing, followed up by a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, the archer has benefitted significantly over the last year from the Canadian Olympic Association's Own the Podium program, which was a cornerstone to the country's best-ever Olympic showing at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

With help from OTP -- which focuses funding on world-ranked Canadian Olympians -- Lyon has recruited a new coach in American Jay Barrs, a former world champion and gold medal winner at the 1988 Games in Seoul. The program also covers extensive travel costs that Lyon used to have to pay with his own (or family's) money.

When Lyon travels to Montreal this weekend, Barrs and his sports psychologist, Jay Brooks, will be there, courtesy of OTP.

"It's made life a lot easier," Lyon noted. "I don't have to spend much (personal) money on travel at all. That was really taking a toll on me. I couldn't advance in life because I couldn't afford to do things.

"I don't have to do anything now. I just have to stand on the line and shoot arrows."

Of course, the funding has allowed Lyon to amp his training regimen to the point where "if you look at my schedule now, it's like a full-time job."

Not bad for a young man who prior to the Beijing Games, had to spend thousands of dollars of travel (when it could be afforded) to foreign competitions and train by shooting arrows at the Golf Dome during the long winter months.

Life and times for Jay Lyon have changed. But the goal remains the same.

The three-day trials begin today. Lyon turned 26 on Thursday.

Asked how he might celebrate his birthday, Lyon replied with a smile: "By winning the trials."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2012 C1

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