Most of you will already know who Michael Judd is - if not where have you been for the last 2 years.
We all know that Michael is a quietly spoken calm and pleasant young man who happens to shoot a recurve bow rather well. This however, is the facade he puts up to unseat his opposition and lead them into a false sense of hope. He is, under that mild exterior, a hugely committed extremely focused immeasurably competitive and at times mildly angry person who just happens to shoot a recurve rather well.
He has been shooting for many years but approx 2 years ago he began to work hard on changing some parts of his form he felt were holding him back. Very quickly the results started coming. He began breaking county indoor records and also climbing the leader boards at national tournaments. He began to mix it with the countries best and put a few high profile noses out of joint when he beat them.
His forte became H2H’s. His ice cold nerve gave no quarter to anyone. He seemed phased by no one, club archer to GB squad he didn’t care. They were just another person to be taken down on his quest to win. If he has nerves he has a fine way of hiding them.
In a discussion with him at the end of last year regarding the inaccessibility of GB squad he made the comment that his intention over the next 2 years, was to make a nuisance of himself amongst the greats. To achieve things as an unsupported club archer that would show up the system. He wanted to prove that it can be done on your own.
Well I think we can safely say that he has achieved that and a little quicker than was expected.
This year started well for Michael - at every round of the National series he was mixing it at the top. This was also the case at national tournaments as well. His GMB classification seemed to come in the blink of an eye and to cap it off he also became one of the elite few to shoot 1300+. In doing so his 1305 was also enough to take Michael Pearts county record.
It wasn’t all to go as smoothly as he would have liked though.
On the second day of round 4 of the national series at Oxford, whilst leading the Gents fita by around 17 points he had a mishap. On the 3rd end at 30M whilst at full draw he suffered catastrophic limb failure. Now to those sponsored archers this would not have been an issue. Spare bow would have been taken and the shoot carried on. However Michael being self supporting doesn’t have the luxury of such things. That could quite easily have been the end of his weekend. However, up steps a fellow competitor to offer up his spare limbs.
Unfortunately Michael never got the guys name, so if you happen to read this he extends his greatest thanks.
The bow was re-built, albeit with limbs 4lb lighter than his own and he carried on. His next end with a completely mismatched set up was a 59 out of 60 . The man has ice running through his veins. He went on to win the Gents FITA that day.
The last round of the series was the following week and Michael needed a good finish to secure the last place in the final.
But he had no limbs.
Perris Archery stepped up to the plate and had a set of limbs in his hand within a couple of days. A quick tune and off to Lilleshall for the final round. A phenomenal weekend secured him his last place in the final and crack at the big event.
A couple of weeks of intense practice and another small issue with limbs followed. Again Perris sorted the problems and ensured he had the equipment needed to show up to the main event.
Michael and i arrived early to prepare. Firstly to watch the compound matches, but more importantly to familiarise and acclimatise ourselves with the venue. This time was also spent eating.
As all those that have met Michael will know, he constantly has food in his hand. He used the time well to prepare himself nutritionally.
Set in the grounds of Wollaton Hall directly behind the house, a beautiful setting indeed. The weather was windy and a little chilly - not what had been expected.
As the compound matches came to a close we made our way to the practice ground where Michael warmed up and prepared himself. My job was to keep him calm and attempt to reduce the nerves. Easier said than done. At times I wasn’t sure who was the more nervous, Michael or me.
Practice went well, Michael was shooting solidly and we kept the mood light.
Before long it was time for the first match. Michael was shooting against Ashe Morgan a member of the GB squad. Michael was calm and relaxed. He felt confident in taking the win.
Ashe got off to a better start in the 1st end and took the first 2 points. The wind was a little different to the practice field.
Michael came back strong in the second end and levelled the match 2 points all.
In the 3rd end Ashe shot a solid 26 points but it wasn’t enough as Michael shot 27 and took the next 2 points. 4-2 to Michael.
In the next end Michael shot another impressive 27 but Ashe was fighting back. He shot 28 point and levelled things again. 4-4.
The 5th end was spectacular. Ashe, shooting first got off to a good start and having shot a 27 left Michael needing a 10 with his final arrow to tie the match. Ashe left the line thinking he had done enough. He hadn’t however counted on the ice cold nerves of the Judd. Michael set up the shot and coolly put one in the 10. Game on, and into the tie break.
The tie break rules were now to shoot as many arrows as you wish in 1 minute with the arrow nearest the center taking it.
Both Ashe and Michael took their places for the final show down. Ashe got his 1st shot away, a solid 9. Michael settled down and calmly shot an X. Pressure squarely on Ashe to get nearer. Ashe shot two more 9’s and an 8. Michael followed his X with an 8 and then another 10. Michael was through to the final.
Michael had stated earlier in the day that if he made it through to the final his preferred opponent would be Alan Wills. This would be a little grudge match after a previous meeting at an indoor event where Alan beat Michael.
This was to become reality when Alan beat Larry Godfrey in the other semi final match.
The stage was set.
Whilst waiting for the final, Michael and I spent some more time on the practice field. Just keeping muscles warm and nerves under control. He also took the time to top up on his nutrition.
The other matches came to a close and left only the gents final to be played.
The tension was building and we made our way to the final stage.
In practice and his semi final match, Alan had been shooting well. He would be a formidable opponent.
The matched opened with both shooting 8’s. Alan’s 2nd shot was a typical flamboyant Wills shot, which finished in the 10. Michael followed it with a pair of 9’s but Alan put in another 10 to take the 2 points.
Michael put in another solid 26 in the second end but again was just piped by Alan with a 27.
Both were shooting well considering the tricky wind and Alan managed to close out the match in the 3rd set with a 25 to Michael’s 24. Such a close match and the 6-0 score sheet doesn’t show how close Michael actually came.
At the post match interview, Tim Nash asked Michael how he felt to be the only non sponsored archer in the event and if he could have his wish of a sponsor who would he choose. Without hesitation Michael immediately thanked and praised Perris Archery for their help and support when he needed it without which he wouldn’t have made it to the final. Forever humble in his success. The presentation followed and I don’t think the grin has left his face yet.
He would also like to invite you all to next year’s event were he intends to take the top spot. Going on his achievements this year, I have no reason to doubt him.
Ian Harris. (Coach and team support crew for the day).