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Cleo Wermann-Thorn is drawn to archery because of the calm and focus it requires.
"It isn’t a super fast-paced sport like hockey… everybody is focusing on shooting their best and it’s very quiet," she said of the atmosphere on the range.
The Grade 9 Westwood Collegiate student shot a bow for the first time five years ago during a family outing at Heights Outdoors and Archery Range on Portage Avenue.
This February she will be one of four archers representing Team Manitoba at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. While Wermann-Thorn has participated in large provincial tournaments — including at the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson — this will be her first time competing at a national level.
"It’s really exciting," she said. "I’ve never been to a competition this big so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like."
The archers, and their four alternates, were selected for Team Manitoba following a series of competitive qualifying shoots last fall. The eight athletes will be training together three to four times a week and shooting in provincial competitions until the games, which take place Feb. 15 to March 3.
Wermann-Thorn, who is also a competitive rhythmic gymnast, said it can be a challenge balancing athletics and schoolwork.
"I’m just trying to train as much as I can and get myself ready… so I can do my best while I’m there," she said.
Team manager Avril Hatherell said the 14-year-old archer has the skills necessary to compete at a high level.
"She is very focused and she’s got a lot of concentration," Hatherell said. "She’s very consistent in what she does and it shows with where her arrows go on the targets."
The Canada Winter Games format includes individual and mixed team events for both recurve and compound bow athletes. A recurve bow has a long, simple design and is the only bow used in the Olympics; while a compound bow has a pulley system and can include add-ons like a magnified sight.
Wermann-Thorn shoots recurve and will be competing as an individual and with her partner, Kadin Giebelhaus. In the team events, both archers shoot the required number of arrows within a certain time limit.
"I like the team matchplay because there are people cheering during that one and it’s more of a fun, happy energy… than the concentration of the individual shooting," she said.
Hatherell has been practising archery for 21 years and coaching for 15. In her experience, the popularity of archery ebbs and flows based on hit movies and how many kids are exposed to the sport.
"At the moment, there are quite a lot of young archers in Manitoba," she said.
Hatherell — who has competed at two previous Canada Winter Games — is looking forward to sharing the excitement of the competition with the next generation of athletes.
"I’m hoping it will be a wonderful experience for them," she said.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.