When Crispin Duenas is not shooting arrow after arrow in an attempt to reach his fourth consecutive Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Canadian is liable to be found attempting to control an unruly class of high-school students, or perhaps taking wildlife photographs, or even belting out rock tunes on his guitar. Here, the man who in 2013 became the first Canadian in 42 years to win an individual recurve world championship medal talks us through his marvellously full life.
What is the best thing about archery?
The places that I get to go are awesome. I get to train outside; I am an outdoors type of person so I love that. And it’s not too strenuous – it’s not like running around a soccer pitch. The strive for perfection is also something that every top-level archer loves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it, because we are standing there in a field, doing exactly the same thing every single day, trying to get better at it. That is not really for everybody. It’s not a mindset that everybody possesses.
Are you a perfectionist in all areas of your life?
I try to be. My wife would agree that I was. While she usually balls up the socks together and turns one inside out, I will always arrange them flat, side by side. That is just one of the areas.
Your wife was a USA collegiate-level archer – are you guys competitive?
Whenever she beats me or if she has an end where she scores higher than me, she makes sure that I know about it. Otherwise, the most recent thing we have started doing is play Mario Kart. We are not big video game nerds but we will spend maybe an hour playing each other.
What surprises people about archery?
The heaviness of the bow can be pretty insane for people, but that is when you start getting into more of a competitive set-up. If you are just starting out, we are not going to start you on a severely heavy bow like mine. Overall fitness is also something that is pretty much required for all high-end archers now. In fact, to be on Team Canada, in the Olympic division, you have to pass fitness tests. We want them to know this is actually an athletic sport and not something that you can just do on a whim and expect to be good at. That is definitely something to consider as a beginner.
Have you got a favourite archery movie?
I am more interested in the ones which give a realistic portrayal of archery. One of my favourites was Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood. That actually had some very realistic portrayals of how a bow would react when it is shot. But there is really no movie out there that shows real archery and the type of training and rigour that archers have to go through to be competitive. It is almost as if you need an Eddie the Eagle version of archery.
You also work as a supply teacher. Which is harder – going into a new classroom or shooting in the Olympic Games?
I would say the classroom is harder. Shooting in an Olympic Games is something I have gone through, I know the distance, I know my equipment, I know my bow, I know how to read the weather. When you go into a classroom of 30 kids who don’t know who you are, the first thing you have to do is figure out as many personalities as you can to be able to get through to them. And once I have learned that, I have to be able to appeal to them, because most of the time when they have a supply teacher they say: “Well, I am not going to do any work today.” They see it is a free day. I kind of see it as like a salesman’s job. I have to be able to pitch an idea to these kids and sell them on it so they buy into it and do what I am asking.
Do you sometimes use your Olympic past and present to bring them onside?
When I get an excited bunch of kids who start asking, “What was the Olympics like?” and things, one of the best things I can do is say: “OK guys, your teacher has assigned this much work for you to do today – if you get it done with 10 minutes to spare, I will answer every single question you have about being an athlete, being at the Olympics.” A lot of the time the kids get it done.
What was the motivation to carry on towards a fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo?
I just love it. There are no other words. I love being competitive. I love shooting an arrow into the 10. I love travelling. I love being able to do this. It is a passion of mine. Even after I retire, if that ever happens, I don’t think I will stop shooting. I have already been told I am probably in line to be the coach when I stop, but I am trying to be an athlete for as long as I possibly can. We will see what my wife says after my fourth Olympics.
What are you best at apart from shooting a bow?
I like to think I am a good photographer. I have a picture of a red-tailed hawk – its wings are spread and its tail is spread, and you can really see the red at the top of its tail – and that is definitely one of my favourite images. Other than that, I like kicking back and playing my guitar, just pop rock, stuff where I don’t have to memorise a difficult riff or anything. Or getting out to the shooting range and shooting pistols.