‘She’s going to realize her dream’: Olympic archer Casey Kaufhold sets her sights on Olympic gold [photos, video] | Entertainment


Before the arrow connects with the target nearly 75 yards away, the archer already knows where it’s going.

“That was a nine out of 10,” she says quietly, not braggadociously, but stating the fact of a good shot, as she does hundreds of times a day.

It’s a hot June morning in the grassy knoll behind Lancaster Archery Supply, and one of the only two 2021 Tokyo Olympics-bound archers in America is casually shooting each of her Easton X10 arrows into the tiny yellow center of a target.

Casey Kaufhold, a 17-year-old junior at Conestoga Valley High School, is already off to a noteworthy summer. She has claimed the sole spot on the women’s roster of the United States archery team in an Olympics qualifier — and set a new world record in the process.

Casey Kaufhold, a 17-year-old Olympic qualifier from East Lampeter Township, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

“She shot some scores in those trials that were unbelievable,” says Dick Tone, one of Kaufhold’s coaches. “In those last two days, she beat all the men. It’s fun to see the people succeed. Her dream was to be there, and she’s going to realize her dream. This will be one of many for her, I believe.”

No other archer under 21 has ever scored higher than 682 out of a total 720 points, as she did in her Olympics qualifier.

“All the work finally paid off,” Kaufhold says. “I’ve been working so hard. People think that the Olympic timeframe is four years, because that’s when the games are, but I’ve been looking to this since I was 8 years old.”

Kaufhold’s specialty is recurve archery, which uses a more powerful bow. The bow curves out toward the target at its tips, giving it a distinctive shape somewhat similar to the number “3”.

“Casey is one of the unusual people who is both a natural athlete and also happens to have that extreme level of drive and motivation,” says Bryan Brady, Team Leader at the Lancaster Archery Academy, who first met Kaufhold in 2015.

Casey Kaufhold remembers beating her father during an archery shoot when she was 12 years old. Now, five years later, she’s heading to Tokyo to represent the USA in the Summer Olympics. Find out what’s on her belt, her favorite songs and what an ‘average’ day looks like for this East Lampeter Township athlete.

Her Olympic odyssey began nearly a decade ago, when a gymnastics injury forced her to reconsider her sporting path. It’s not that she had to search hard for inspiration, either. Her parents, Carole and Robert Kaufhold, have been running Lancaster Archery Supply, known by archers as a world class facility, since they founded the company in 1988.

“I beat my dad for the first time when I was 12, which was a good feeling,” Kaufhold says with a laugh.

With her dad competing on the world team for field archery and her mom an avid bowhunter, the younger Kaufhold found support for the endeavor at a young age.

In 2016, at the same age that she finally beat her dad, she took home four gold medals at the Easton Junior Olympic Archery Development Nationals in Decatur, Alabama. For the last few years, her spot on the U.S. archery team has led to placements in competitions all around the world.

It was also in 2016 that she first met Tone, a legendary archery coach who has taken nearly a dozen archers to the Olympic games over the last few decades, including 1990 gold medalist Jay Barrs.

At a tournament in Las Vegas, a then 12-year-old Kaufhold was a little shakier than she is today. Facing down a few punishing one-arrow shootoffs, Tone stepped in to offer advice.

“I went over to Casey and say, ‘Do you want to win this shootoff?’ She said, ‘Of course.’ I said, ‘Alright, here’s what you do – you shoot the arrow, and we’ll watch it,” says Tone by phone.

“From that point on, she didn’t lose shootoffs. She’s a very quick learner and she works so hard. You can have talent, but if you don’t work hard, it won’t do you any good.”

In 2019, Kaufhold found herself training for the 2020 Toyko Olympics and, well, everyone knows what happened next.

“[COVID-19] definitely threw a wrench in the plans,” Kaufhold says.

A year’s difference meant foregoing the AP classes that come with being a high school junior, which Kaufhold describes as a “sacrifice.”

“In the beginning, I slacked off for like a month, just because it was hard to envision what was next,” she says. “But after a month of being lazy, I realized, if everyone else is doing this, then this is my chance to get better and be head and shoulders above everybody else.”

Kaufhold took up swimming during the summer to keep herself physically fit, all the while subtly improving day-by-day in shooting.

“Just looking at the scores I’m shooting now versus two years ago, it’s night and day,” Kaufhold says.

Though she had previously shot her record-shattering qualifier score in practices, she had never done it in competition, which she credits to the extra year of preparation.

While training for the Olympics, Kaufhold also shoots with the Lancaster Archery JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) club. The club is headed by Brady and Heather Feil, who is currently in Paris with Kaufhold.

“The biggest asset to it is honestly that all the kids assume, as a matter of course, that they can achieve at absolute elite levels if they want to,” Brady says on having Kaufhold there. “It sounds silly to say, but with Casey, it’s more of a, ‘Well yeah, I’m going to nationals this year because I can.’ It’s really cool to see this unconscious confidence that a lot of them have that this is possible, because they’ve seen it proven that it is possible.”

The U.S. archery envoy to Tokyo now consists of Kaufhold and 32-year-old Brady Ellison, who won the bronze medal in the 2016 games and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in recurve archery. Ellison, also a veteran of four Olympic events, has been an inspiration to Kaufhold since they met when she 8 years old. The two competed together at the 2019 Pan-American games in Peru, earning two gold medals in the mixed team recurve finals.

A final qualifying event in Paris will determine whether Kaufhold and Ellison will be joined by other Americans at the Olympics in late July. The three-week trip is just one of the many competition trips for Kaufhold, whose summer will find her traveling back and forth from Lancaster to Alabama and South Dakota, along with her monthlong stay in Tokyo’s Olympic Village.

Despite her age, Kaufhold’s decade of competition experience creates a level of poise uncommon for a 17-year-old. She describes the heat of competition as “sensory heightening,” with every snack wrapper crinkling in the crowd becoming a potential deterrent to a perfect 10 shot.

“Everything around you becomes more obvious,” Kaufhold says. “You just have to learn how to calm yourself down and focus on your shot, since that’s what you’re there to do. Competing on a big stage — and the finals events are on an actual stage — it’s a lot more pressure because all eyes are on you. You’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared for that.”

In the process of shooting every single arrow — from practice to competition — she repeats a mantra in her head: “Up, down, smooth, keep going, trust it.”

Casey Kaufhold prepares for Olympics

Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

She learned to trust the arrow’s direction a long time ago, but each shot requires the same focus.

“It just gives me something to think instead of thinking, like, ‘Oh, do I need to shoot 10? What did the girl next to me shoot? Do I want to eat something?’” says Kaufhold. “So, it keeps me thinking about what I should be thinking about in the moment, because the biggest part of archery to me is the mental side.”

Tone says that Kaufhold’s training includes using an archery phone app that allows her to compete virtually with teams around the globe, based on actual rounds they’ve shot in the past.

“The competition will be very stiff, says Tone. “The South Korean team will be there of course, and they’re very tough.”

Outside of training, Kaufhold has managed to remain a pretty normal teenager. She recently went to prom with her boyfriend, Stefan, and is a fan of Marvel films, as represented by a small Spider-Man figurine on her quiver belt.

Of course, get her talking about the Avengers and it will inevitably come back to archery.

“Hawkeye doesn’t really anchor right,” Kaufhold laughs about the Avenger archer. “He’s too fast, he just shoots it right away! He doesn’t take time in his process, and like, I know he has to save the world and all that, but come on.”

Tone says that he’ll be assisting Kaufhold from near and far as July rapidly approaches.

“I had a phone call with her yesterday [while she’s still in Paris], she’s doing well and sounds good,” Tone says. “We just generally will talk about her form or what she’s thinking about, making sure she’s doing the things she worked on with Heather and me. It’s nothing fancy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you know?”

For some, just walking onto the Olympics stage might be enough, but Kaufhold is determined to leave Tokyo with the gold medal. Regardless of her showing, she also knows that she potentially has many more games in her, especially since archers aren’t known to have a “prime” age. On the other hand, Kaufhold might just end up proving that the magic age for archers is her own.

“I never thought it would be such a big deal,” Kaufhold says earnestly. “A friend of mine went to a restaurant recently, and the guy next to him at the bar was talking about the girl from Lancaster who is going to Tokyo for archery. It’s weird to think that people know that much. I know it’s been on the news and in the newspaper and all that, but it’s crazy to think about. I just think of myself as a kid who does something a little cool, but apparently everybody else thinks it’s really neat.”

‘She’s going to realize her dream’: Olympic archer Casey Kaufhold sets her sights on Olympic gold [photos, video] | Entertainment Source link ‘She’s going to realize her dream’: Olympic archer Casey Kaufhold sets her sights on Olympic gold [photos, video] | Entertainment

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