McKayla Bolitho, 12, may be soft spoken, but she carries a large bow and knows how to use it.
The local Grade 7 student just found out that she finished first out of a field of 858 competitors to clinch a gold medal for Archery Canada’s Regional Indoor Championship in the Pre-Cub Recurve category.
Contestants shot for the championship at regional meets across the country and the results were only recently released.
Bolitho’s championship winning performance occurred at a meet in Prince George earlier this year.
She and her family had almost forgotten about it until they got a letter with the good news.
Needless to say, they were all very excited.
Her grandfather, Brian Jmaeff, is an avid archer, so to spend some quality time with him she tagged along to the Quesnel River Archers’ indoor shooting range on Reid street last October and instantly took a liking to the sport.
“It’s pretty easy because of my short arms,” she says.
“Some people’s arms are twice as long as mine, so they have a hard time pulling the bow back.”
While her grandmother Marvee Jmaeff questions the logic behind that, she does acknowledge that her granddaughter has very powerful arms.
Under the tutelage of her grandfather and Quesnel River Archers’ Lora-Lee Murray, Bolitho has been training five days a week, for up to three hours at a time, shooting anywhere between 300 to 720 arrows.
She has been able to showcase all of her hard work at meets in places as far away as Victoria and even Las Vegas, where she was able to spend time with an athlete she admires greatly.
Matt Stutzman is an American archer who was born without arms and shoots with his feet.
“He was an inspiration to me,” Bolitho says.
“Because if he can do it, then I can probably do it too.”
Her mom, Sonia Jmaeff, says the sport has done wonders for Bolitho’s concentration and even helped combat anxiety, as it makes her feel very calm to shoot. Although, Bolitho points out, she still has to avoid sugar before competitions.
“It changes your focus,” she says, now more aware of how her body reacts since she is participating in a sport that involves so much precision.
“It makes you hyper and it can be hard to concentrate.”
While shooting, she only drinks water, but that makes the juice taste that much better after the hard work.
With her most recent win, she deserves to celebrate with a tall glass this week.