The phone rang and I heard a friendly American voice with a tinge of Kiwi answered “Let me just put my bow down and I’ll call you back.”
At the age of 56, Suzanne (Suzs) Sundheim was in her garage training on her home made target – made using the local supermarkets compactor. Sundheim was recently named on the Archery team for the 2019 Pacific Games and is due to compete in Apia in mid-July. Traditionally used for hunting and combat, Archery has developed in to a sport of practice and skill. “We are obsessive, we like to repeat the same motion over and over” says Sundheim.
Sundheim first picked up a bow at a family festival in Boulder, Colorado with her kids. Wooden dowel arrows with sponge tips were replaced by better bows delivered to the kids at Christmas. Realising it was a weapon, the family went to a club to learn how to do it safely.
Moving to Rotorua in 2010 (“I went back to the USA in 2018 and we are all ready to become citizen’s in New Zealand”), Sundheim continued to be involved in archery as her sons interests changed. Sundheim had a coach who donated him time. Always an athletic person, Sundheim played soccer since she was a teenager and is also a 3rd degree blackbelt in Karate, continuing to be active was a natural progression for Sundheim.
After another move to Auckland, Sundheim and her “very patient and supportive husband” moved to Christchurch where she could train in person with her Christchurch based coaches. “I needed the direct coaching. We could lay a foundation on Skype but the live coaching has made the difference.”
In 2014 Sundheim began shooting in the Kisik Lee style with her coaches (Petra Baker Head Coach and Julie, Sundheim’s coach). Lee was the lead coach for the US teams and catapulted them on to the international scene with a biomechanical approach.
While never having an issue, Sundheim has only gained from the approach qualifying to compete in Apia this July. “I’m so excited, it has always been a goal to represent New Zealand.” Sundheim was thrilled with the arrival of her kit for the games – about 13kgs of gear and an outfit for the opening ceremony however she will not let this distract her from her goal.
“The foundation is getting enough sleep, it’s where our body heals… I shoot lots of arrows with the distance… I work close to the range a couple of times a week and get over there and shoot before I lose the light. I put a light at the target. Sometimes you feel it as opposed to see it.”
While thrilled to be competing at the Pacific Games, this is not Sundheim’s first international event. Her coaches encouraged her to compete at the Arizona Cup where Sundheim gained experience competing at a higher level to prepare her mental game for the pressure of the world stage.
At the Pacific Games, the top scoring man and woman in the ranking round will become a team together for the finals. First place will earn the Olympic spot for their country (they may not necessarily be the athletes competing at the Olympics but their country will qualify).
And what are Sundheim’s goals beyond the Pacific Games? The Olympics and Commonwealth Games. “I am a team player, it’s important to have good communication play as a team. That must have come through at the trials.” Recently at Nationals, Sundheim was in a 3 person team with a 12 and 16 year old which took the bronze. We named ourselves “Breaking the Age Barrier”
So what would Sundheim say to someone who thinks they are beyond being competitive in their chosen field? “I know 80 year olds who go to masters games and they’re awesome, if you enjoy it and are loving what you’re doing why stop, if your body can manage it why not?… I have callouses that are 3 times the age of some of my team mates, they keep me young. I love having the chance to play. I love having friends of all different ages.”
“You can teach an old dog new tricks. I haven’t peaked, I still have huge goals.”