Folkard on target to strike Commonwealth gold after shoulder injury
ARCHER Naomi Folkard has vowed to banish her Beijing Olympic heartache by etching her name into the history books at next year's Commonwealth Games.
ROAD TO RECOVERY: Naomi Folkard looks to bounce back from shoulder injury (Getty Images)
Folkard cut a forlorn figure at the 2008 Games after the French captured team bronze with their final arrow, denying Great Britain a medal amid Chinese thunderstorms.
The 25-year-old's individual dream was ended by Japan's Nami Hayakawa at the third round stage - mirroring her performance four years earlier in Athens.
Desperate to make amends, Folkard was stopped in her tracks by a torn shoulder cartilage last Christmas. Despite returning in time for the British Championships she lost out against Beijing teammate Charlotte Burgess.
But with archery included in the October 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, for just the second time in history, Folkard has set her sights on claiming Britain's first female medal.
"It is very exciting to have archery back at the Commonwealth Games and I'll be going there full of hope," said Folkard.
"It's the first time - and the only other time - since 1982 that they have been included, so I've never had a chance to experience them before.
"If you look at the opposition, the world's strongest teams are probably the Asian nations - the likes of China, Korea, Japan as well as France - and they are not going to be there.
"We should be there as one of the favourites and that counts in the individual events as well.
"There will obviously be the Indians and the Canadians and a few others as well, but they are not the top, top nations and I have high hopes of competing for a medal.
"It would be very special to medal, but to medal in what is such a rare opportunity for archers at the Commonwealths would be great."
In addition to the Commonwealth Games, Folkard's packed schedule will take in May's European Championships in Italy and the World Cup in Croatia.
But with the Olympic torch now just under 1000 days away from lighting up the capital, the 2007 Archery World Cup gold medallist admits she already has one eye on 2012.
"It is a constant thought in the back of my mind that the Olympic Games are coming to my home country," added Folkard.
"I wouldn't say that it has changed my schedule at all but at the same time I am conscious that everything I am doing is building towards 2012. I want to arrive at the Olympics in the best possible shape.
"I'm obviously very experienced - I've been to two Olympic Games already - but the more major championships I go to the better I position I will be in.
"It would be good - looking forward to 2012 - to get amongst the medals this year.
"I managed a silver medal at the European Championships last time, so that is a minimum this time.
"Ideally I will be looking to take gold there. If I can do that and follow it up with a medal at the Commonwealths then that would be a great way to make up for the year I have just had.
"It would restore a lot of my confidence and would set me on a great road with just 18 months or so to go to the 2012 Games.
"I can still remember the crowd at the Beijing Games and it was an extraordinary sensation.
"British people love their sport and I would expect them to come out in huge numbers to every venue and really back their athletes.
"It would be a brilliant thing to look back on at the end of your career and I want to make sure I'm looking back on it with pride."
Folkard returned to competitive action in early summer finishing eighth at the Shanghai World Cup but crashed out of the World Championships in the second round of the recurve.
And after returning to light training ahead of the new season, Folkard reflected on what could have been.
"I was hit with the shoulder injury in Christmas and that knocked me back in my preparations for the season," she continued.
"We couldn't really identify how it had happened. It could have been during competition or training or just from my everyday life.
"But shoulder injuries are obviously a huge problem for archers and I just had to wait until it improved before I was able to do any training.
"When I came back I just couldn't really perform to my maximum. I'm not sure I had the confidence in my shoulder to perform at first.
"It does go through your mind when you're coming back from injury and sometimes you aren't prepared to really stretch your injury in fear of it reoccurring.
"That limited my performances really and although I was delighted with coming eighth in Shanghai in August I was disappointed with the rest of the year.
"This winter I should have a clean run through training and then I can concentrate on how I'm capable of performing in 2010."