Nymbrk, Czech Republic 2002
The USA sent 32 archers from all parts of the US to the Czech Republic at the beginning of August, 2002, to participate in the Championship held every two years. The US sent the largest number of archers to participate, four of whom were Texans: Sage Adams, Kevin Barker, Jake Misenheimer, and Tim Meyers.

Here is the write-up from Tom Barker, who accompanying Kevin, and the photos that both Tom and Marcia took while on their trip.

A Prescription for Fun
Take one part well organized committee, one part fabulous weather, one part gracious host cities, and gently add 361 archers from all over the world and the result is one good time. You can read elsewhere the scores and many other much more eloquent than I will describe the shooting, but I wanted to describe the experience.

Day 1 and 2 Half of the American team (including the Barkers) left from Detroit to Amsterdam before making there way to Prague following the National Target Championships, with at least one withdrawing mid-tournament from the Grand Prix to make the flight. The rest of the team left from Washington D.C. through London to meet up in Prague.

We saw the sun set in Detroit and seven hours later we watched the sun rise over England as we made our way into Amsterdam. Many tried but almost no one was successful in sleeping on the absolutely packed 747. We arrived in Amsterdam and seemed to walk to Belgium to find the gate for the plane to Prague. It was amusing watching the kids listen to all the languages spoken as we traversed the airport. Once at our gate the team leader, Lloyd Brown, freed the kids for 20 minutes of shopping in the airport and then it was off to Prague.

Once in Prague we meet up with the Washington group who is waiting for their luggage. We will have to wait too. After working though the language barrier we find that more than half our luggage, including most of the bow cases is still in London or Amsterdam. We are assured it will be delivered on the next flight so are off to clear customs and get the rental vehicles. Customs was easy but we arrived at the rental counter just after the lunch hour and come to find out, everything stops for lunch in the Czech Republic.

We wait and finally get our vehicles. There is a bus to take the kids to the hotel. The Petersons and Barkers claim their Opel Vectra with manual transmission and head for Podebrady. Driving in the Czech Republic is more challenging than we thought. We abandon our previously planned route in favor of the recommended route of the rental car attendant. We soon discover that the roads are not numbered. We quickly discern that the routes are determined by the major cities that the road leads to. The road signs make no sense and everyone drives at least 20% higher than the posted speed limit. We snake our way around Prague and find ourselves on the Czech equivalent of the autobahn and learn that the speed limit is as fast as you can go without getting run over.

We drive through a beautiful countryside with habitats ranging from medieval homes to soviet bloc construction. After about an hour we make it into Podebrady. The kids are not there yet since they have gone on to the venue to get credentials and to eat. This takes quite awhile and they have been awake more than 24 hours by now. The hotel for the kids is very nice. The Barkers and Petersons go to find our hotel and find the equivalent of the Bates motel. It is a converted sanatorium and we have to convince the receptionist that we are not patients. It is not a good sign when there are call buttons in the bathroom. I kept waiting for my midnight treatment.

There are three things you will not find in the countryside of the Czech Republic, air conditioning, screened windows and pest control. Consequently, we had to leave the windows open to deal with the heat, only to have our rooms invaded by mosquitoes and spiders. Thus began a nightly ritual of while profusely sweating using a wet towel dressed only in your underwear trying to kill mosquitoes and spiders on the 10 foot ceilings. I am sure this contributed to the proprietors ascertain that we really needed the treatments.

We finally get settled after being up 29 hours and fall to sleep hoping our luggage will somehow find us.

Day 3 The next morning we find our rental car has been “keyed”. We head over to the kids hotel and find 32 very groggy kids being introduced to the typical Czech breakfast, cold cuts and cereal. We find out some of the luggage arrived in the middle of the night but Kevin and I are still missing our luggage with our clothes. We do some inquiries and determine that my bag is on the way to the hotel, but Kevin’s never left Detroit on the original flight and is now in Barcelona trying to find its way back to Prague.

The kids do some walking around town and head over to the venue to practice.

Day 4 This is equipment inspection, official practice day and opening ceremonies. Kevin’s bags finally show up about noon so he can finish putting all his gear together. Kevin concludes his suitcase has a had a better trip to Europe than he has so far. At the official practice the fun begins. The kids are overwhelmed with all the different languages, different equipment and atmosphere all centered around archery. It is a magical time watching introductions being made and communications attempted and all that world history and geography being applied. Kevin is stunned after talking to the Latvian coach to learn that his mother’s grandfather had been executed by Stalin. The fun of the interactions erased all the problems with luggage and logistics.

Equipment inspection was very rigorous. I saw a girl from Malaysia reduced to tears when a FITA judge rejected her bow. She had a 20 year old Hoyt Gold Medalist that appeared to have been used as a hammer at one time. The judge rejected her bow because of all the chips and scratches on the riser that he viewed could be used as additional aiming marks. Through the translators she was instructed to paint her bow before she could compete. I took it upon myself to solve this problem and my roll of electrical tape quickly engineered a solution to her bow problem and she was back in the hunt. The smile she gave me was all the thanks I needed.

Kevin was on a target with a Turkish kid. He asked if he could share Kevin’s spotting scope. Kevin said of course. The Turkish archer shot left handed but looked through the scope with his right eye. When Kevin inquired why, the kids said this was the only bow he could get. Kevin was embarrassed to have a back up bow.

Later on the Turkish kid told Kevin in broken English that his only goal in life was to visit America. He said his coach had been three times and talked about how wonderful it is in America. It was then Kevin really appreciated what he had.

Opening ceremonies were conducted just like the Olympics and was very impressive. Parade of athletes made a huge impression on the American parents. Seeing the Stars and Stripes held high by Tom Nealy made you very proud to be an American.

Day 5 Long distances today with compounds in the morning and recurves in the afternoon and the shooting is awesome. Actually the whole day was the beginning of serious pin trading that had to be interrupted occasionally to shoot. Bummer. Everyone is enjoying each others company. Kevin has set his sites on one of the Mongolian kids ceremonial hats and sets in place a plan to trade for one. He is authorized to trade any of his trading articles up to and including his cheap set of binoculars for the hat. He negotiates to trade for his U.S. Archery hat.

Day 6 More trading, flirting, dancing, singing, trading emails, oh, and they shot the short distances too. Kids are loosening up a little more and finally getting adjusted to the food, time and surroundings. It is full party mode now and the practical jokes are beginning with their new friends. The Texas kids with their sheriff badges and Texas flags are a real hit.

Day 7 OR’s today and this counts, so the mood is a little more somber. As is usual in this, there are the two emotional extremes, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat and this is universal. Fortunately the earlier exits from the OR viewed this as a head start for the prime pin trading, visiting and making new friends time. It was party time. Kevin’s new Latvian friends are trying to teach him Russian and give him two years to learn it before the next JR Worlds. Kevin seals the deal on his Mongolian hat and adds an Aussie shirt to the take.

The coaches plan a special treat for the kids for Thursday evening: a trip to Prague to shop and then eat at McDonalds. They don’t get away until 6:45 and they end up getting lost coming home and arrive back at 11:30.

Day 8 Today finds 6 Americans (all compounds) still in the hunt for individual medals so all the kids go and cheer for their teammates. Two golds, a silver and a bronze made for a very happy group. The rest of the team worked on the team round practice. Hearing our national anthem at the medal ceremony was very emotional.

In the evening while waiting around the hotel, Lou Peterson notices two local boys returning from a hunting trip on their bicycles with their bows. We decide we are going to buy some of the arrows of these fellow archers. Lou and I are scrounging up change to buy the arrows and admiring their equipment and ingenuity. The bows were bamboo and they were strung with 80 pound monofilament fishing line. The arrows were dowels that had been notched and the then drilled to place a pounded flat nail in the front for a broadhead. They tied on goose feathers for fletching. We negotiate to get three arrows a piece and the boys agree to come in and meet the U.S archery team that gives the local kids a round of applause. I buy them ice cream before they agree to give us a shooting demonstration. After a few ends they give Lou and I their bows to try. It wasn’t pretty. With our Czech dictionary we learn that they hunt pheasant, partridge, grouse, duck and hare with their bows. We learn the hares are the best table fare. It was a glorious time.

Day 8 Team round today and all the national songs and costumes come out. The Aussies have shaved their heads. The Italians have their funny hats. It is full time pandemonium now. The Americans win several medals and come so close on a couple of more, so we have the range of emotions again. Closing ceremonies are after all the medal rounds and everyone heads back to clean up for the banquet and dance. This winds down for the Americans about midnight, but the party continues at the hotel.

Day 9 A trip to Prague is on the agenda today and everyone gets a marvelous tour of the Prague Castle and the church that took 1000 years to build. It was awesome. Tom Nealy’s encounter with a pay toilet was hilarious. The attendant chose not to challenge the 6 foot 2, 300 plus lumberjack looking kid who insisted he had to go now. Some shopping is in order and then back to the hotel because of the very early get up to head home the next morning. Everyone is tired but thrilled at the privilege of coming and representing their country.

Everyone but the Petersons and Barkers headed home on Monday and we proceeded to have a whole separate adventure in Prague.

Going over the bridges on Sunday with the whole team, the guides mentioned the river tours were not operating because of the high water. This was to be foreshadowing of problems.

The tour the previous day had whet our appetites on the many sites and wonders in the old city. We spent most of Monday morning trying to get the six of us and our luggage to our hotel in the central part of the city. Our small rental car meant that Marcia, Tammy Peterson and the boys went on the bus to the airport with the rest of the team where we could arrange a shuttle back to the hotel. Lou Peterson and I were to deliver the luggage, including two bow cases, to the hotel and then turn in the rental car. We had been properly instructed not to drive in downtown Prague. Lou and I got lost going to the hotel and visited parts of Prague that no American had ever seen. It took almost two hours to find the hotel and then it started raining.

After dropping Lou and the luggage at the hotel I moved on to the airport to return the rental car and hook up with Marcia, Tammy and the boys for the shuttle ride back to the hotel. A normal 15 minute trip took almost an hour because as I was to find out later, there were numerous road closures due to the flooding.

In any event, I got to the airport, found the rest of my family and we headed to the hotel. Check in time is not till 2 p.m. and we are there about noon. We store our luggage and in a driving rain go for a walk and find some lunch. At 2:00 we return, check in, and decide we will rest for a couple of hours before going to the city about 5:00.

I read up on the Metro, Prague’s fabulous subway system that makes getting around to the sites a dream. So in the evening we set off to the city in the rain. We go first to the Charles bridge, a 500 year old structure that is better built than most U.S. bridges. The first thing we notice is the river is a lot higher than it was on Sunday. In fact we see soldiers on the north west side of the river setting sandbags. All inquiries on our part about the forecast of the rive is met with sort of a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” response.

We had a marvelous tour of the old town, the river and the many shops and stores even in the downpour. We also had a marvelous meal at a very nice restaurant in the Old Town Square. We headed home about 8 with big plans for Tuesday to see the rest of the sites.

It rained hard all night on Monday. The TV showed pictures of the flooding but the Czech only stations made it impossible for us to really tell what was happening, but it did not look good. The constant wailing of emergency vehicles also, told us that things were not normal. Tuesday it was still raining as we took the Metro downtown to begin seeing the sites and planning for our tour. It became apparent that traveling out of the city to see some castles was not going to be a good idea. Many of the roads were closed. As we got to the Old Town Square sirens were going off and we learned that the authorities were predicting that the square would be under water later that afternoon. More and more shops, restaurants and stores were closing. We ate lunch and decided to come back to the room to pack for our departure the next day and reassess our plans. The TV made things look much worse. We tried to call the travel company that arranged the shuttle to the airport and we could not get them on the phone. It was then that we remembered they were located a 100 meters from the river. Marcia and I concluded, they have evacuated and are of no help to us. We were on our own.

So, we head downstairs to formulate plan B for a taxi ride to the airport on Wed. We have been warned that taxis’ in Prague are to be avoided since the rates are negotiable and you can be basically high jacked. The receptionist in the lobby gives us the “No problem” treatment when I asked if we could get a cab the following money. He makes a few calls and says that we will “probably” have a cab in the morning. I inquire more. Well, there is a lot a flooding and they may not be able to get to the hotel. Wrong answer. I want a sure thing. The more I ask, the more I am convinced they don’t have a clue about how bad the river flooding is nor whether it is going to get worse. We negotiate a cab ride for certain, but it takes some work.

We head back to our rooms and are watching the TV which now has 24 hour coverage and we are getting very nervous. I am concerned that we are going to be stranded in Prague and have to eat our nonrefundable tickets.

I start looking through my books for someone that can explain the situation. The American Cultural Center is evacuated. The American Express office offers a cab service that might be able to pick us up in the morning. Several more calls are not answered. They have all evacuated.

Finally, I have had it. I call the U.S. Embassy, which by the way is a must phone number to have for international travel. You have to know this number as it may be your only help. It was for us. The embassy is only open until noon in Prague. So I get a recording. It says that embassy staff is recommending that Americans not travel to the Czech Republic due to the flooding (I immediately formulate a corollary. If you are there, get the hell out.) The message also gave a number to call if you had missing or deceased relatives in the Czech Republic due to the flooding (this got my attention.) It went on further to state that the Prague city and the Prague region (basically 25 km around the city) had been declared disaster areas for the next 7 days. They gave a number to call if you had a any questions. I had lots.

When I called it was answered by a United States Marine on duty since the embassy was closed. His perfect English was comforting. I explained my situation and said I was looking for advice on how bad the river flooding really was and what the forecast was for a crest. (This appears to be a foreign concept to the Czech authorities. They basically sand bag as the water goes up with no real idea of forecasting river crests. It is totally reactionary. As an aside to illustrate this, the flooding was so bad that the zoo flooded. Their gorilla drowned in his cage and an elephant and hippo had to be put down because the waited so long that they could not evacuate the animals.)

The marine asked me where I was and I told him. His long pause was disconcerting. I said all I am looking for is what would you do if you were in my situation. The Corporal response was exactly what I was looking for. “Sir, if it was me, I would get my ass on this side of the river.” He recommended a cab company that the embassy used and said they were honest and would not rip me off. He was looking for a hotel for me, when I said he didn’t have to do that and had been most helpful. He said, “No problem, after all we are the marines.” I laughed.

After hanging up the phone we consulted with the Petersons and concluded we needed to take the marine’s advice and get our rears to the airport ASAP. We hustled to finish our packing and crammed the boys, the luggage and the Petersons into two small cabs with instructions to come back for Marcia and I. There was water everywhere and it looked like the bridge we crossed could have been closed any minute. The concern was not that the water would go over the bridges but that the debris coming down river would structurally damage the bridges. In fact they had cranes on the 500 year old Charles bridge clearing debris off the supports. The Emergency vehicles were everywhere too. By 7:00 we had all made it to the airport. I inquired about a hotel but the onsite one was full and the closest to the airport would require more cab rides plus $110 per night to stay. We decided to spend the night at the airport. We were not alone. There was about 200 people doing the same things as us.

We found a corner in the airport and claimed it as our territory. We decided that someone had to be awake at all times to watch the luggage and that was a smart decision. Lou noticed a group of people in one area and it turned out to be gypsies. We later found out they come into the airport in a group of about 15 to 20 carrying a piece of luggage so they look like other passengers. They then make a grab on luggage while people are asleep and leave with 3 or 4 pieces of luggage a piece. Their numbers create a diversion.

We also watched the airport guards unsling their weapons and go through every piece of luggage of about 4 Arabs traveling.

We finally did get out of Prague and headed home. Some of Kevin’s luggage (the same one that visited Barcelona on the way over) decided to spend an extra day in Amsterdam (by the way, we find out later that Amsterdam is notorious for baggage problems.) We get to Detroit and it is raining. We clear customs, find out Kevin’s bag is not going to make it and get to the hotel. We grab a bite to eat and I calculate that except for 45 minutes that I napped on a bench at the airport in Prague, I have been up for 44 hours. I slept well in Detroit.

The trip to Houston on Thursday was delayed by rain and then our flight to Victoria was cancelled due to the rain in Houston. We caught a later flight and finally made it home about 10:15 last night.

You might think we are soured on this trip. Not in the least. Prague is a fascinating city and I could spend a month there (had we not been proactive in arranging alternative transportation, that is exactly what might have happened.) The Czech country side is fabulous also and whole different experience. All in all it was a great trip, or should I say adventure?

My most found memory of the tournament was not the shooting, even though it was spectacular, but the interactions of the kids. It is indeed a small world and archery just provided the catalyst for a wonderful experience for these kids. The thrill of sport and doing it for sport’s sake, not monetary reward or personal gain was refreshing. My most endearing revelation from the experience will be that kids are kids no matter what part of the globe they come from.

RESULTS OF TOURNAMENT

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