Belfast Telegraph

Olympic star Huston's 2020 vision has Tokyo firmly in his sights

By Steven Beacom

Patrick Huston made quite an impression at the Rio Olympics. It helped that the Northern Ireland archery ace was the first Team GB member to compete in the greatest show on earth but there were other elements that made the 21-year-old former Campbell College pupil stand out.

There was the controversy over him not being able to wear his lucky flat cap due to the British Olympic Association dress code, there were the revelations that he was bullied as a kid because of his passion for a non-mainstream sport and the inspirational notes captured by photographers that he had written for himself to read during competition.

Had he not lost in the last 32 to South Korean Ku Bonchan, who went on to win gold, the Belfast boy would have made even more headlines in Brazil.

Huston has a 2020 vision for the next Olympics in Tokyo where he is targeting a gold medal, but before then his ambition is to bring archery to the masses with a new business venture that he hopes and believes will be a success.

In basic terms, Patrick's plan is to create a recreational style of archery, similar to Paintball, which can be played by families, groups or individuals all over the United Kingdom.

He wants more people to play the sport he loves in a fun environment and if talent is spotted along the way there is the potential to develop a pathway for young boys and girls to learn more about archery and go on to compete in high level competition.

"It's called Urban Archery," the multiple junior world champion says enthusiastically.

"I am developing a number of different areas where the public can take part in archery in a fun way.

"You are in an industrial warehouse or any urban space and the first game sees you go over an urban assault course, stand on a pressure pad and try to hit targets which pop up with your bow and arrows. There are two factors in that; accuracy and time trials.

"There is also a capture the flag element where you can basically shoot your friends with the bows and arrows while trying to fulfil your overall objective. That is a bit more similar to Paintball.

"I should point out it is not dangerous as there will be foam tips on the arrows. It will all be done with safety in mind.

"I aim to start this venture in Manchester this month and then expand across the UK. I'm really excited about bringing Urban Archery to Northern Ireland later this year.

"Archery is a wonderful sport and I want to get as many people involved as possible. It can be quite expensive with joining fees, membership fees, insurance and the kit, but hopefully through this I can make it much more affordable for families. Hopefully when it is successful I will be able to have a development pathway for people from any background coming in to learn real archery and if they show a flair for the sport they could go through the pathway.

"I would love this project to supply a route from the bottom to the top for aspiring archers across the UK.

"In business speak Urban Archery is a broad scale population engagement in a recreational form of an Olympic sport and in my head the aim is to bring archery to the masses."

True to the sport he loves, Houston sets targets and is not the type to let disappointment hinder them.

Last month it was confirmed that archery was on a list of sports losing all UK Sport funding for the 2020 Olympics.

The decision did not go down well with the one-time Belfast Telegraph Young Sports Star of the Year.

"UK Sport have less money than they used to and a ridiculously successful group of sports, as the Olympics in Rio showed," explained Houston, who took up archery when he was eight years old.

"That means there are a lot of national governing bodies and high performance units that need funded and we are low down the pecking order in terms of performance, and therefore aren't getting any money.

"The Paralympic programme topped the medal table in archery so the Paralympic archery programme is still getting money so the High Performance Unit will still exist, it's just that there is no direct money for the Olympic World Class programme.

"There is still development money for development pathways but basically the coaches and athletes in the world class programme, come the new financial year, will be out of a job which is tough and very disappointing.

"Despite that I fully intend to carry on because I still have dreams and ambitions to fulfil.

"I'm going to do the Indoor World Cup in Nimes in France this month and the Indoor World Cup in Vegas in early February. After that I honestly don't know what other events I'll be competing in abroad, but I plan to get some World Cup medals in my pocket to lift my profile.

"I have been doing a lot of technical work and am confident that I can do well on the international scene this year.

"I'll also be competing a lot in Britain. I have my eye on a lot of British records which have not been broken for a long time."

Then there's his 2020 vision for the Tokyo Olympics which the east Belfast Archery Club member admits will be much clearer after not being at his best in Rio.

He admitted: "It was almost like qualifying for the Olympics was my achievement rather than actually delivering on the Olympic stage itself.

"Now that I have been there and competed in the Olympics that box is ticked and my aim is to win it in 2020.

"I have a variety of training techniques that I have been experimenting with, having learnt a great deal from the sports science guys at Archery GB, and also with my shooting in terms of set up and other elements. I'm fairly confident that I have learnt enough to kick my standard up quite a bit in years to come."

Self belief oozes out of Patrick Huston. If you didn't know him you may think he was brash and over-confident. The reality is he is a genuine and highly motivated young man, who takes inspiration from his parents Adrian and Felicity and brother Alex, and is keen to make his mark in the world. The Youth Ambassador for Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Conlig won't be changing any time soon.

"My family have been such a great support to me over the years. They've helped me so much," he says.

"I'm also my own man and will continue to be that way. I want to be a success in and outside competition and am really looking forward to new challenges this year."

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