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Hazel Chaisty lives in Glossop and is a para-archer. She will be competing in the women's individual recurve event and also in the mixed team recurve along with team-mate David Phillips.

This will be Chaisty's first Paralympics appearance after only taking up the sport seven years ago. She won the gold medal in the Recurve Women's Open event at the 2019 Fazza Para-Archery world ranking tournament in Dubai.

Chaisty is another athlete with strong Derbyshire links who could well win a medal at the upcoming Paralympic Games and is someone to definitely keep an eye on.

Hazel spoke to Derbyshire Media Company recently to discuss her road to Tokyo in detail and what her chances of success are.

Similarly to what Matlock’s Ryan Cowling told us, this has been a particularly difficult event to prepare for due to the pandemic. Chaisty is well aware that this will be an event like no other, but is focusing on what she can take as the positives as the build-up ahead of her para-archery events intensifies:

“It’s been a real double-edged sword because on the one hand, we were raring to go as we earnt our qualifying place back in 2019 and I was really getting my archery swerve on and getting my competition head on but then, all of a sudden, everything closed down for a long time. There were no competitions. It was difficult to keep yourself going and to keep the sport alive in your own mind when you’re just stood in the back garden shooting alone at a blank boss every day. But we have also had an extra year now to get ready.”

“This will be my first Paralympics. I did actually go to Rio as part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme, so I have been to a Games but had a look around rather than actually competing in it. Tokyo will be a different experience for every athlete there though, regardless of how many Paralympic Games they’ve been to before. Everything’s just going to be so different with the Covid aspect. Athletes that have been to previous Games will definitely miss certain aspects of a Paralympics for this one about to take place in Tokyo. Normally, we have a huge Team GB launch ahead of the Paralympics but this hasn’t been possible this time. For me, I’m just riding the wave for what it is. I’m excited and just ready to absorb every moment.”

In our interview, Hazel also goes into detail about the scheduling of her para-archery events which is going to leave a lot of free time for her. Because of the necessary restrictions still in place in Tokyo and inside the Paralympics village, there is not exactly a great amount for Chaisty to do in that spare time which will make for a rather surreal debut Paralympic Games experience:

“The scheduling of the archery competitions is a little different this time around compared to previous Games. So archery will still one of the first sports to start at the Paralympics, like it also is traditionally in the Olympics. But the archery events are actually quite spaced out this time around and there will be a period of five days in between when I’m actually competing. So I’ll just be training for those five days. So I will be in Tokyo for a while.”

“We’ve been advised to bring as much things to do as we can. I’m a bit like Tom Daley with the knitting! I’ll be doing plenty of patchworks! But yes, we are going to have to remain within our own bubbles, we’ve been advised not to mix with other countries and just stay within our team and bubbles. We need to avoid any crowded areas as much as possible. There are outdoor spaces in the Paralympics village that we can go to but we can’t have a proper look around Tokyo.”

In terms of hours of live terrestrial television coverage in the UK, the Paralympics will actually surpass the Olympics just gone. It’s a huge opportunity for sports like para-archery to shine in the spotlight and it’s a far cry from the coverage the Paralympic Games received when I was a kid in the 1990’s when the Games would simply receive a few highlights packages and that was it. It’s fair to say that coverage of the Paralympic Games has moved on tremendously over the past decade and especially since London 2012. Chaisty says that the wall-to-wall coverage of this year’s Paralympics is absolutely vital towards promoting and supporting disability sports such as para-archery:

“It’s massively important. London 2012 really raised the profile of disability sports. People were seeing that it wasn’t just athletes who were having a go at the sports, they were seeing athletes with disabilities excelling at their sports. People love seeing that. They recognise that this is an incredible feat of achievement. We’re going to get so much coverage on terrestrial TV for these Games. I think it’s even more coverage than what was available for the Olympics just gone. So that’s just fantastic. With archery, what usually happens, is that the sport just gets a few highlights packages on TV. But I am hoping there is a lot more focus on the sport this time around as this was the very first Paralympic sport. This is where it all started from. Archery hasn’t got the coverage we’ve deserved before and we’ve got some fantastic archers for these Games in Team GB’s squad. Four of the archery squad have won Paralympics medals before – let’s see if we can all do the same now.”

In our interview, I asked Hazel what the funding was like for para-archery and how easily accessible the sport is for newcomers:

“The funding for disability archery is not bad at all. That’s because we have brought quite a few medals home. Not just at the Paralympics, but in other events like the World Championships and the European Championships. The funding is good for us as the medals have brought in that funding. In terms of getting into the sport for yourself, it’s not that expensive. Have a look online and look for clubs in your area. My club is called Goldcrest Archers. All the archery clubs are fantastic, they all come together and that’s where I first started in the sport. I picked up a bow, I was given some lessons and I was away.”

Finally, Hazel gave some insight as to how strong Team GB’s para-archery squad is and what her own chances are of bringing back a medal to Glossop within the next two weeks:

“The Team GB Paralympics archery squad is really strong. We’ve just come away from a warm-up event in Czechia and we brought medals home from there. The archery team brought a few medals home from Rio at the last Games. In one of the categories, we won gold, silver and bronze: we wiped the board! We’ve got some fantastic talent in our team for these Games coming up now. I’m hoping to bring back a medal home myself. We’ll see how it goes but we are a force to be reckoned with. When we head onto the field, people know that we’re up for it. We’re not there to be also-rans.”

“If you’re not going to want to win a medal, then there’s not much point going. I absolutely want to win a medal. Me and my shooting partner Dave Phillips – we’ve got a good chance of a mixed team medal. We’re good as a team and we’ve got a good, strong rapport between us. In terms of my individual event, I’ll be happy with a top eight finish.”

We can’t thank Hazel enough for the time she gave us for this interview. Not only did she speak to us just a few hours before her flight to Tokyo set off but also at a time when her daughter was in labour!

Needless to say, everyone at Derbyshire Media Company wishes Hazel the very best of luck in Tokyo and we’re all rooting for her.

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