Matilda is hungry for success

Matilda Craven.
Matilda Craven.

In theory, nine-year-old Donington youngster Matilda Craven is too young to watch The Hunger Games trilogy created by American author Suzanne Collins.

But in sporting terms at least, the North End Archers prodigy could well be on course to become archery’s version of the series’ heroine Katniss Everdeen, as portrayed by Oscar-winning American actress Jennifer Lawrence.

Matilda’s astonishing feat of becoming Britain’s youngest-ever Junior Master Bowman, at the age of eight years and 147 days, happened less than two years after picking up a bow and arrow for the very first time.

Hazel Craven, Matilda’s mum, said: “We’d never had anything to do with archery and knew nothing about the sport.

“But Matilda’s coach Terry Ducker asked us if we wanted him to do a 12-week introductory course with her, not thinking she’d be able to do it.

“Matilda used a compound bow with all these different cables and pulleys which, even though it was quite complicated, she did the beginners’ course with and which proved to be so much more accurate.”

Matilda said: “I went to a school fete and Terry was there with an archery stand where we could pop some balloons as a target. Because I listened to what Terry said and didn’t give up, my mum and dad got me some archery lessons for my eighth birthday when I was still a pupil at Bicker Preparatory School.

“Then Terry asked me to come to North End Archers Club in Swineshead where I was trying to get the best score I could.

“The one thing I remember Terry said to me was ‘every arrow is a new arrow so you get a fresh start each time you have a go’.

“Terry also told me ‘if you have a bad arrow, just put it behind you and get on with it because those archers who do that are the ones who succeed’.”

Matilda was entered in her first competition at the Friskney Bowmen club in May 2014 and managed to hit six gold zone targets, earning her a much sought after Six Gold End Junior badge.

Peter Craven, Matilda’s dad, said: “The set-up was for her to shoot six arrows at a time and if she got all six in the gold zone or centre of the target, she would get a badge.

“Matilda got it on her first shoot and that’s when Terry must have seen something which made him say that he would get her into the Junior National Outdoor Championships just two months later.”

At her first national competition in Shropshire held in July 2014, Matilda came third in the under 12 Junior Ladies Compound competition where the two girls ahead of her were both 11.

Terry has been a continued presence and mentor for Matilda as her scores have improved and as the trophies have started to mount up.

Matilda’s next experience of archery on a national stage came at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena in December 2014 when the National Indoor Championships, where she finished fifth, but her scores over the year were enough to qualify as a Junior Master Bowman, the highest award possible for a young archer in the UK.