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June 15, 2015

"Archery Is the Best Sport In the World:" Alex Wifler

Alex Wifler (Crete, Illinois) has always been a bit of a wild card in the archery community. Although a consistently strong competitor, he has switched back and forth between compound and recurve bows for several years, and shocked the world this past year when he won the Vegas Shoot in his first attempt with a compound.

Alex started his archery career with a compound bow, and switched to recurve after 3 and a half years to pursue an Olympic dream, but when he broke his finger while playing disc-golf 3 years later, he went back to compound. He tried recurve again when his finger healed, but the pain was too much. Was this former Olympic hopeful disappointed?

Not so much. Alex says going back to compound was a natural move for him: "I picked up compound at that point because I wanted more than anything to make the junior world team and I couldn't possibly bear the thought of not going. So it was do or die. I had to do it. I love all parts of archery, whether it's compound or recurve, going for the Olympics or world teams, I love shooting archery. And that's in any form."

Alex said that the love and support from the archery community has been overwhelming. Throughout the transition to shooting compound at the elite level, Reo Wilde (Pocatello, Idaho) has been an incredible mentor for him. "He's been absolutely amazing in every way. I've been extremely lucky with how he's walked me through this whole process of sponsors, from that to how to prepare for the next tournament because it's very different preparation after you win Vegas to go to a different shoot. It takes you longer to do anything, and also in that I'd say a big mentor would be Rob [Kaufhold] from Lancaster Archery Supply, too. He's reached out to me and helped me a lot too."

Alex's primary coach is his mother, Chris. Parent coaches are somewhat unconventional in archery, but for this duo it works: "We're homeschoolers, so this is really not any different for us" she said. Alex added, "when you don't have anybody around you, you have to make it work." Chris echoes his thoughts: "When Alex got into it, we had to learn and we learned to do this together." Alex also works with Mel Nichols. "Mel is ohana, Mel is family," Chris says. "He is a coach, mentor and friend. He's always there at the drop of a hat with no questions asked."

Off the field, Alex is a talented comedian and improvisational actor. He has been taking improv classes for three years and has auditioned for Saturday Night Live twice. "I love making people laugh, I generally try to think of if people aren't laughing either at me or with me, I'm not doing my job right. There's something so rewarding about having people laugh and bringing joy to people."

But Alex's main goal is success in archery. He hopes to see compound join the Olympic Games and to be a part of that. Right now he wants to keep competing in tournaments and continue doing his best. "Archery has given me a lot. I feel very privileged to be a part of the archery community. It has given me the opportunity to travel around the world, to meet wonderful people from around the world, but also make a hard run at making this a job for myself and making this a career option."

It can be overwhelming to be so young and already focusing on a sport as a professional career. Chris shared this advice based on their experience with Alex: "Everyone thinks that being sponsored is the golden ticket and in a lot of ways it is but you have to be ready for everything that goes with it. When someone sponsors you, especially if you're younger, you have to be able to handle yourself emotionally on the field while they expect you to put up scores. We always took the position that if you shoot well, sponsors will come to you."

For Alex, it's all about loving shooting and everything about archery. "There's nothing in the world that feels like it when you're able to pull a bow and shoot an X. it's perfect, everything has to go right. It feels almost like a dance, where you have so many intricate parts that have to be working perfectly together. It feels perfect."

For younger fans looking to join the sport Alex says, "Before you say you can't do it, try it. In my opinion archery is the best sport in the world because anyone can do it."

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