Team Australia has returned from the International Horse Archery Association World Championships in chilly Mongolia with a meteoric rise in rankings and a swag of international competition invites for Cooktown rider Don Woods.
The young Cooktown diesel fitter has spent almost as much time on a horse as off his whole life, and took to the mounted archery sport like a duck to water when he first tried it five years ago, so much so that he qualified for the Australian team this year.
“It’s hard to explain how it feels when they ring you up and tell you you’ve made the Australian team,” Mr Woods said.
“And I don’t think anyone can describe how it feels to ride under your flag, the feeling of pride, with your team around you, it was a once in a lifetime experience.”
The 22-year-old didn’t let the experience overwhelm him, and said although the crowds were the largest he’d ever competed in front of, and he was given a fast, barely broken horse, he gave it his best shot.
“I never worry about the crowds watching, it’s just me, the horse and the target when I compete, that’s all I’m worried about,” he said.
“I came 31st overall and Australia is now ranked 8th in the world, which is a vast improvement from around 21st the last time Australia competed in a world event.
“I was given a very fast horse and ran some of the fastest tracks there, and although I’ve got a bit of a reputation for speed, I honestly wouldn’t have minded something a little quieter and a touch slower, but I worked with what I got.”
New South Wales based Australian team captain Rodney Deaman said despite setbacks, including arriving late and not being able to choose their mounts, the team and Mr Woods competed well.
“Don Woods is a bloody inspiration,” he said.
“The way he rode that horse – or semi-guided missile – was amazing!
“I am beyond privileged to have had the opportunity to captain this team, and now we can work on bringing the sport back to what it was pre-Covid and showing the world what Australia can do at the next one.”
Mr Woods results speak for themselves, with invitations for several international events pouring in during the competition.
“There’s nothing booked yet, but there’s a good chance I’ll be competing internationally between April and March next year,” he said.
“Before that we have the Australian Nationals coming up in November, which is going to be an interesting close competition as Team Australia will be competing against each other.
“It’s a really good start back after Covid to a lot more competitive Australian team and gives us current team members the drive to be better for the next world championships in two years’ time.”
With the Mongolian trip costing more than $4000 per rider, Cape York businesses got behind the young rider with generous sponsorship.
“I’d like to give a big shout out to my employer, Weipa’s Steady Contracting, and WDS Saddlery, who are in Mareeba, as well as Lousiana Emporium in Cooktown, their support was really appreciated,” Mr Woods said.
The youngster flew back into Australia on 12 September and was straight back to work in Weipa on 14 September, ready to save up for the next competition.
“These things aren’t cheap, and we really appreciate all the donations and raffle tickets bought,” he said.