The Road to Tokyo | Grace Alumni

News - Nov 01, 2021

2011 Grace Graduate Taymon Kenton-Smith recently returned from a successful Paralympic Games in Tokyo with the Australian Team. We touched base with Taymon after his return to talk about his experience and reflect on his time at Grace.

Hi Taymon. Firstly, thanks for speaking to our Grace community as one of our Alumni, and congratulations on your selection to represent Australia in archery at the recent Paralympics in Tokyo! How was the experience and the trip including all the COVID quarantine protocols you athletes had to undertake?

Overall it was a tremendous privilege. There is no other word I can use that defines how grateful I was for the opportunity to travel to Tokyo. To wear the Green and Gold. To be honoured as the premier athlete of my generation in Para-Archery for Australia. All during a time when most people aren't even allowed to leave their house I traveled across the planet multiple times this year.

The Covid Paralympic Games of Tokyo 2020-2021 was unlike any that has ever been and most likely any that will come again. Most Paralympic Games athletes usually are away from home for 2-3 weeks depending on what their competition is. As for me, my journey started in late May and ended nearly 4 months later in late September. In short, it was both exhilarating and exhausting. Multiple two week quarantines which all but felt like solitary isolation, mixed with training camps in other cities canceled at the last minute and then the epic high stakes contests of the Final Qualifying Tournament in Czech Republic in July. As well as the illustrious Tokyo Paralympics themselves. This year was awe-inspiring even for myself looking back on what I did.

How did the sport of archery come into your life?

I sat on my Grandad's lap when I was 3-4 years old and listened to him talking about all the "glorious" English battles with longbows. I became fascinated by the sport and started shooting competitively by the time I was 8. When I was 14 I promised my Nanna I would get to the Paralympic Games. Her passing away earlier this year made it incredibly important I succeed and make it to Tokyo.

We had been following you during the Paralympics broadcast and via your Facebook page, it looked like you had an amazing time. How did you feel about your performance?  

I have an ultra-sensitivity to heat and humidity. It was hotter than a December Brissy scorcher. Temperatures on the shooting line averaged around 41-43 degrees and 80-90% humidity. And yet with those conditions I still succeeded in placing in the middle of the pack of the Paralympic Archers. The finest archers the world has to offer were shooting against me in the worst conditions that I could have possibly competed in and I beat almost half of them. How do I feel? Ecstatic, strong and proud. I had an immense sense of completion wash over me after my final day in Tokyo. I set out to achieve a solid performance and that is exactly what I did.

What year did you graduate from Grace and what were some of your favourite memories of your time at the College?
Naturally Googa camp was my highlight. It brings people to their base levels and shows their true colours. I feel if Googa was done over a period of 3 months rather than 4 weeks it would definitely create some permanent life changes with people. Needless to say the camp encouraged me to go beyond my limits of endurance and partially inspired by it I completed the Way of Saint James, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela walk, which is 800km long.

I was also fascinated by the various studies of space and earth sciences, As well as that I am passionate about ancient history and learned a great deal during my earlier years in High School there.

Also I am very grateful for various teachers such as Mark Johnson, Warren Irvine and a few others who made a profound impact on my life.

Any words of wisdom for our current batch Grace students considering pursuing a dream of competing at a high level in a global sport such as archery? 

Yes, there is a tremendous amount of advice I can give people, but I will sum it up in a few words.

If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough. Be adaptable. Be strong mentally and ignore people that say, "It's not possible" or "You will never make it." Anything as stressful or challenging as the Paralympic Games or doing a PhD will constantly cause you to have roadblocks and trouble. But as long as you hold true to the inherent self-belief that you will succeed then results will come.

We live in an age where technology can make almost anything happen, or it can develop the tools to make it happen. So, push through your fears, be prepared to cop a few failures as you go and you will achieve success.

What’s next for you in the sport in terms of future competitions?

The Paris 2024 Paralympics is the next big goal. There is also the Dubai World Championships in February next year so there is no opportunity for a break as the normal year between the Games and the Worlds was this year. As such, I can't really rest for too long. Also, I want to be seasoned enough so that when Brisbane 2032 comes around I'll be able to get the Gold in my home city.

To keep up with Taymon's journey and competitions, follow his Facebook page

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