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Olympic archer Crispin Duenas on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

Crispin Duenas celebrates bronze medal win at 2013 world championship

How does a degree in physics help an archer compete? Just ask Crispin Duenas, a University of Toronto alumnus and one of Canada's top male archers.

Duenas represented Canada at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in Beijing and London – and he will be competing in the upcoming Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

The last time you spoke to U of T News, you were heading off to the London Olympics. What have you done lately?
Since the London Olympics, I have become a certified teacher with the Toronto District School Board, all the while having not slowed down in my archery career. In 2013 I won the bronze medal at the Outdoor World Championships, a feat that hadn't been done by a Canadian in the Olympic division in over 40 years. 

The support from the Canadian Olympic Committee, Archery Canada, the IOC's Olympic Solidarity, and Own The Podium has increased to a level that I would have never expected, and I'm deeply grateful for their support.

How do you feel about the Pan Am games coming to Toronto and U of T? 
I love that the Pan Am Games will be coming to Toronto. It will give Torontonians a chance to see the most elite athletes from the Americas compete in one place, and spark the Olympic Flame in many of the people who come out to watch. The fact that this huge athletic event will be coming to such an academically-inclined institution will show the diversity of U of T. The classic buildings of the University of Toronto will offer a nice backdrop to a few sports, fusing the old generation with the new.

You have a physics degree from U of T. How do the laws of physics apply to your game?
Understanding the concepts of physics definitely plays a big role in conceptualizing archery. It helps a great deal when I'm tuning my equipment and trying to understand the weather conditions that surround me while I'm shooting. However, physics does not help when I actually have to shoot my arrow: all of the practice and training time I put in to my sport to refine and hone my shot is what makes me hit the 10-ring every time. If I knew all of the physics behind archery, but didn't practice, I wouldn't be where I am today.

What are the top three skills every good archer needs to have? 
The top three skills that every archer must possess are: a drive to be perfect; excellent fitness; and adaptability to every shooting environment – no matter what distractions may be present.

Does your training in archery ever come in handy outside the range?
I believe that my training in archery helps me in my everyday life. The biggest influence that archery has for me is that ability to relax on demand; I usually don't get bothered by the things that would normally bother a high-strung person. Archery (and sport in general) has given me the ability to step back and view the bigger picture and put everything into perspective.

You've competed in many sport events, nationally and internationally. Which one was your favourite and why?
By far, my favourite competitions to have competed in were the Olympics in 2008 and 2012. My most memorable achievement in competition was definitely in 2013 at the Outdoor World Championships where I was pitted against all of the medallists from the 2012 Olympics and only lost against the gold medallist. The weather conditions were very bad for archery (wind gusts up to 80km/h) and I was still able to win the bronze medal.

How do you keep your nerves in check when competing?
The skill of keeping my nerves in check when I'm competing was taught to me years ago when I started, and refined by competing at the highest level of competition as often as I could. I use a method called "active relaxation" where I feel what it's like to be tense and nervous, and then actively feeling the difference between that and being relaxed.

What's been the most interesting place you've travelled to for a competition?
I've been to many interesting places for competition, but the most interesting place has been India for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Experiencing their culture and climate has been the most different of any places I've been; I saw a range of beautiful scenery and dwellings to the poorest slums that made me appreciate what I have back home in Canada.

What do you most look forward to when returning home to Canada from your travels? 
The two things I most look forward to when returning home are being with my parents and having their home-cooked meals, and having the comforts of home like Tim Horton’s available whenever I want (you don't realize how important a medium, steeped tea double-double with milk is until you can't get one when driving home after dinner).

What’s your advice for young athletes just starting their career in sports?
My advice to every young athlete (and any young person out there who is trying to excel at anything) is to realize that there will always be tough times in your life and activity. Try not to let what happens on your field of play (or concert stage or wherever you do your extra-curricular activities) affect your everyday life. Keep on striving for excellence in everything that you do, but keep each part of your life separate.

Archery aside, are there sports you are eager to follow at the Pan Am games?
I've got several friends competing in other sports that I would like to watch, such as kayaking, trampoline and shooting. But the archery team will have to leave right after our event because we will be shooting for our Olympic spots at the Outdoor World Championships in Denmark, so we will probably not even get a chance to watch other sports.