The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were different. Not only were they held in 2021, designating them the darling of pub quiz buffs for generations to come, but when they did eventually happen, every aspect had been touched and affected by the long fingers of COVID-19.
Despite the unique and challenging circumstances of the games, however, for Team GB archer and Brunel student Bryony Pitman, it was still a special place to be.
“The ‘Olympic Experience’ was amazing!” said debutant Bryony, 24, who balances her burgeoning sporting career with an MA in Intelligence and Security. “Despite COVID, being in the village and around all the other nations and athletes was really cool.”
With many of the usual freedoms the athletes enjoy curtailed by the ongoing pandemic, such as not being allowed to visit the venues to cheer-on their teammates, Bryony says that Team GB went the extra mile to make sure all of their athletes were able to treat the Olympic Village as a ‘home from home.’
“With all the other sports there too, it really felt like one team,” she said. “I had lots of 30 second chats with other athletes when we were in the lifts, everyone was so interested and supportive of what other people were doing.”
Bryony in action in Tokyo | Credit: World Archery
Despite admitting to ‘mixed emotions’ about the eventual result, Bryony said she was proud to have finished a very respectable 9th in both the Women’s Team and Women’s Individual events, where she knocked out competitors from Italy, Taipei and Mexico, before finally losing to the eventual silver medallist from Russia.
Just being able to actually go to Japan and compete at the games came as a relief though, as the postponed 2020 event was followed by a year of uncertainty about whether the Games would happen and what form they would take when they eventually did.
“That was the hardest thing to deal with, as there was so much uncertainty around the games going ahead at all, even just a couple of weeks out. That did impact me and a lot of other athletes but I tried to avoid the news and any conversations around whether the games would happen so that I could focus better,” said Bryony.
In the weeks before she flew out, Bryony had to undergo daily coronavirus tests, temperature checks and health monitoring and once she’d arrived in Tokyo she was expected to wear a mask “pretty much all the time.”
“It was unpleasant in the 40° heat and humidity, but I’d rather have done that than not compete at all.”
With the Games now behind her, Bryony’s turning her sporting attention towards the upcoming World University Games, World Games and World Field Championships, before she shifts her focus to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The archery arena | Credit: Bryony Pitman
Before all that though, Bryony aims to finish her Masters dissertation, with a potential PhD in intelligence and security studies on the cards after she graduates next spring.
“I might change my mind by the time I’ve written my dissertation!” she joked.
“But I’ve always had an interest in modern conflict – the history of how conflicts began and how they’re being resolved. Intelligence can impact conflicts in so many ways and how that intelligence is analysed can influence policy and military responses.”
Bryony says she’s particularly enjoyed studying the history of intelligence and taking part in practical exercises, collecting and analysing data on a specific subject and learning about how her own biases affect her interpretations of that data.
Regardless of whether Bryony pursues a PhD to study alongside her archery career, however, she says pursuing both have taught her some important transferable skills.
“Both require an ability to balance focusing on a few key details and looking at the bigger picture. You’ve got to have a lot of self-trust and confidence. And both archery and intelligence are very time consuming,” said Bryony.
“My time-management has definitely improved this year!”
For further information on MA Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel, please visit brunel.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/intelligence-and-security-studies-ma
Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965 firstname.lastname@example.org