Jessica Stretton has squeezed in an astonishing amount of success into her 16 years. The Hemel Hempstead school girl is a world record holder, the world number one in her category, and has topped it all off with a gold medal in Rio.
Yet the youngest archery teammember to represent Britain at Rio is the first to admit that she didn’t think her archery taster, aged 12, would come to much. “I’ve always had really bad hand-eye coordination and was like, you’re probably not going to be great at this Jess, but hey have a go anyway,” she recalls. “I surprised everyone around me including myself!”
Jessica, who has cerebral palsy, believes a key skill that sets her apart is “the ability tune out my surroundings and focus on just me and the target”. Another secret weapon is her DM Orthotics glove, which she wears on the hand that holds the bow to help with hand posture and movement control.
“My wrist used to get very tired during shooting,” she explains. “The reinforcement panelling in the glove gives support and helps to prevent my wrist from flopping down. I’ve worn it since the end of 2015 and I’ve noticed a big difference. My shots are a lot more accurate, my groups are a lot closer together and my scores have gone up.”
With a world record and Paralympic gold medal under her belt, Jessica continues to set her sights high. “I’m going for the perfect score of 720,” she says. “The closest I’ve got so far is 651 in practice. That should keep me going now the Games is over.”