World University Games 2015
Gwangju, South Korea
By: Mackenzie Kieborz
"Shooting in the World University Games, or Universiade, has been such an unforgettable experience. The energy I felt in the athletes village from day 1 really inspired me to achieve the most I could there. Coming into this event I had some nagging shoulder problems, and during the few days of practice they concerned me, and I had been getting ice from the USA athletic training staff to try and keep the inflammation down. They ended up evaluating me and giving me really great athletic training assistance with massages, ice, and electric stimulation. Aside from my own training and practice, the assistance they gave me was above and beyond what I was used to and really contributed to my success during the qualification round. My shots were always dry smooth, controlled, and finding the center of the target and I shot my highest ranking round score ever, having a 676 out of 720 points. This put me not only at the top of Team USA but helped our team be in a position to be ranked 5th overall, with tough competition. The next morning my individual eliminations were tough. I first shot against Rosalia Dominguez from Mexico in the 1/16th round, who ranked only a point higher than me in qualification. Our match was very close every end and the scores were only a couple points different, but my mental and technical game stayed strong and I won by two points. In the 1/8ths round I shot against the first ranked archer at this tournament and also in the world--Stephanie Salinas, also from Mexico. At this point my injury started flaring up and my shots were not as accurate, but I stayed strong and tried to finish the best I could, but she still dominated the match and knocked me out.
At this point there was a break until the individual rounds were over and we had lunch break, so I used the time to recuperate and ice my shoulder. Because I had struggled so much during individuals, I was concerned for my ability to shoot the best for my team and at that point told my coaches to pull me out of the Mixed team round that would follow the Team round, so that one of my teammates who was shooting better could go instead and do the best for our team. This relieved a lot of pressure so I could focus only on worrying about one thing--succeeding in team rounds.
When we finally got to start practicing for the team round, we were all shooting really well and got on a roll. Even though in the team round you individually shoot two arrows, your energy can feed off the shooting of the others. Plus if the people before you shoot a really good shot, it's easier to aim with that arrow on the target and put one right next to it. We also help each other out with encouraging words and assistance reading the wind while we are at full draw, because the wind on our field was changing even during the same arrow.
Needless to say we were on a roll and came into our first match with India in the 1/4ths, shooting a 225 out of 40 to their 216. Our next match was against first ranked team Korea, with the odds stacked against us as their team had a home field advantage and are three of the top shooters in the world. However, we broke past their defenses and shot an amazing score, a 236 out of 240, which is not far from a world record score, to their 229.
Beating Korea had to be the highlight of the whole weekend. I don't think anyone believed we could do it but ourselves, and even athletes from other sports were impressed because Korea is a powerhouse team with top athletes in every sport. When I shot that last arrow for our team, I didn't even know what we accomplished and was baffled and ecstatic to have accomplished so much. That win put us in the gold medal match against another top team, Russia, two days after, on the 7th in Korea time.
Preparing for the match included a lot of rest and care from the Team USA athletic training and medical staff. When it was finally time for the match everyone on our team was excited, we got to shoot for an audience in a finals venue that spared no expense, with even a monitor showing the wind speed and direction. It was raining and windy when our match began and was even more so as it continued. The match was tough and very close but our arrows were just not enough. My team and I were always just out of the 10 ring, on a lot of our arrows. The match came down to that, with Russia dominating with all tens and one or 2 nines, and us shooting nines and some tens. Mentally and technically, I was shooting great. Everything felt in place and my mental game was strong. I felt so confident and finished our team up with a 10, telling me that my mental process has improved even in this last year. Russia prevailed to win the gold with a 220 and we were just behind with a 218 to take the silver.
Winning a medal in this event was something I had dreamed about, and seeing it become a reality will stick with me forever. When I stood on that podium with my teammates and felt the weight of the medal around my neck it was one of the greatest moments of my life thus far. My accomplishments not only reflect my hard work, but what of my teammates, our team coach, and Team USA. I couldn't have done it without their support but also the support of the Texas A&M team who helped me prepare for the tournament up until the day before I left for Korea. Additionally, I received so much support and help from friends, family, and fellow archers back at home. This taste of success has instilled in me the drive to go further and pursue the Olympics.