World University Games 2015
Gwangju, South Korea
By: Paeton Keller
One of the happiest and most fulfilling experiences and memories that I have was from this past summer. In mid March, I competed in the Archery World Team trials for Team USA. After a weekend of competing against the best collegiate archers in the nation, I found myself at as the top ranked USA collegiate archer in my division, obtaining a position on the Collegiate World Team and would be traveling to Gwangju, South Korea for the 2015 World University Games in July of 2015. The entire trip was an amazing experience, but the greatest part was the opening ceremonies.
Our archery team comprised 12 shooters and 4 coaches from 4 divisions arrived at Gwangju’s FIFA Cup stadium to meet not only the rest of the 500 plus US athletes, but the other 12,000 plus athletes that were here to compete at the largest multi-sport event in the world. Athletes were mingling with one another in the grass fields outside the stadium, taking pictures, trading pins, and meeting new people. During this time, the countries began to gather themselves into the order in which they would enter into the stadium for the opening ceremonies. With 170 countries in attendance, this would take quite some time. After waiting for what felt like 5 hours for the other countries preceding the United States, our team comprised of the best athletes from over 21 sports, began to walk into Gwangju’s FIFA Cup stadium packed with 55,000 plus spectators. As we walked from the outside, through tunnel leading to the center of the stadium, I could hear the chants of the preceding countries long with the roar from the crowd in the stands. As we neared the entrance to the stadium floor, we were stopped. Our flag-bearer prepared the US flag. I looked back and all of the 500 plus USA athletes were smiling from ear to ear. Directly in front of us was Great Britain. As they began to exit the tunnel into the heart of the stadium, their country’s name was called out for all the spectators to hear. Their athletes roared and the fans cheered as their turn to parade around the stadium came. This made not only myself extremely excited, but judging by the quieting down of the USA delegation, everyone else was taking the moment in as well for one for one of the greatest experiences of their lives.
The time came. United States of America was called out. Our flag bearer began to walk into the lights as the rest of our athletes, including myself, emerged from the tunnel. Everyone was cheering. USA had one of the most exciting entrances due to the sheer size of our delegation. We walked around the track, passing all of the other countries as they had found their seats after their lap. We saw the thousands and thousands of fan cheering in the stands. Even the Prime Minister of South Korea was present to watch one of the biggest events in their country unfold. After a lap around the stadium that seemed to take forever, we found our seats and watched a spectacular opening ceremony unfold before us, followed by a amazing opportunity to compete against some of the greatest archers in the world.