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April 08, 2015

McLaughlin Twins A Double Threat In Archery

(L-R) Sean and Daniel McLaughlin compete at the Arizona Cup on April 7, 2015 in Phoenix. 

Twin archers Daniel and Sean McLaughlin share a common target of making the U.S. Olympic team. They're aiming at it, though, from opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

Daniel, currently ranked No. 8 in the nation in men's recurve archery, is relaxed and easy-going. He doesn't let a bad shot ruffle his feathers. Sean, ranked No. 9, is more intense.

"I always joke around with them," said coach Guy Krueger, "that if they combine their personalities together they would be the perfect archer."

The 21-year-old fraternal twins - Daniel is older by 15 minutes - are competing in this week's Arizona Cup in Phoenix. It's not only a world ranking event, but also the first tournament in the U.S. recurve team selection process for the world championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, in late July.

The second and final selection tournament for worlds is the Gator Cup in Newberry, Florida, April 24-27. The three men and three women who go to Denmark will attempt to qualify the United States for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They will also represent Team USA at the Pan American Games in Toronto in July.

The men's field is loaded, including Brady Ellison, the former world No. 1 and a team event Olympic silver medalist and seven-time world championships medalist.

"It's going to be harder to make our world championship team and our Olympic team than it has been since we got into the sport," said Daniel. "Our top 10-12 guys have really stepped it up and we're getting some pretty good depth in the men's field."

However, he added, "That gap between us and the top three or four guys is very small. Really, it's anyone's game this year."

In Phoenix, archers who make the final cut will shoot a round robin on Sunday, scoring points with the top competitors advancing to Florida. They shoot the Olympic length of 70 meters.

Then in September, a drawn-out selection process consisting of three Olympic trials for Rio will begin.

The McLaughlin twins are two of the taller archers on the national team, with Daniel standing 6-foot-2 and Sean 6-1. This gives them the advantage of a longer draw length, the distance the archer draws the bow to bring the string to his face.

"You get more power out of the bow that way," Sean said. "And you can shoot longer arrows that are a little heavier, so they won't get blown (by the wind) as much."

Growing up in Cincinnati, the twins were soccer players for eight or nine years.

"I still like soccer, but kind of got bored," Sean said. "There's not really much motivation to practice outside scheduled practices."

He wanted to do sporting clays and discovered he was a good shot right away. On Sean's first attempt at trap shooting, he missed only one target.

"My dad made me a deal that he would buy the guns and I'd pay for all the ammo," Sean said. "So I figured if I did archery, it would be a cheaper option for me."

Good aim is good aim no matter what sport.

Sean became a serious archer in 2005 and Daniel followed his twin six months later. "We were shooting rifles and shotguns, and pretty much anything that goes bang or twang through Boy Scouts," Daniel said.

The twins earned their shooting merit badges quickly and became Eagle Scouts, Scouting's highest honor, at age 17.

Even then, they were competitive with each other. "Especially if you're twins, (you think) 'I have to outdo him,'" Sean said.

They began shooting national archery competitions in 2007 and enjoyed the benefit of always having a training partner.

"One would progress and push the other to progress," Daniel said, "and we'd keep pushing each other up and up and it helped us get pretty good pretty quick."

They were part of USA Archery's Junior Dream Team and moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, in late 2012, where they are resident athletes.

The McLaughlins won bronze medals in the junior team event at the 2012 World Archery Indoor Championships in Las Vegas, and then broke a 20-year drought by capturing the team silver medal with their friend Jeremiah Cusick at the 2013 World Archery Youth Championships in Wuxi, China.

At the 2014 Pan American Championships, the qualifying event for the Pan American Games, Sean won the individual silver and they won the team silver together.

Krueger, the assistant head coach for Team USA, said living at the OTC has helped the twins stay focused and motivated by other athletes at the complex.

And he likes having them around.

"They're really willing to lend a helping hand all the time," Krueger said. "They don't give you any grief if you ask them to go above and beyond and help out with something at the range, some cleanup or some type of maintenance. That's always refreshing to see that."

The twins helped Krueger move houses, and he's helped them move up in the rankings.

"I would imagine by the end of this year both will be ranked in the top six," Krueger said, "Then it's just a matter of who has a good day. That's really what it comes down to at that point."

Naturally, the McLaughlins face each other in competitions in elimination rounds as well as round robins.

"We're probably pretty even at his point," Daniel said. "We don't have a running tally kept anywhere. It's not me vs. Sean all the time, it's me vs. everyone. I'm sure Sean feels the same way about that.

"His goal isn't to go out there and just beat me, but it is something that we've had to do before and I'm sure we're going to have to do it again. It's always kept in good spirit. You never get too upset when you shoot against the other one just because it's always a good match."

"I think it's probably harder on their parents," Krueger said of parents Patrick and Lisa. "They're happy that one of them is advancing, but it's just a heartbreaker."

While the McLaughlins have many of the same interests off the field, they are separated by their views on the ocean. Daniel enjoys spearfishing with a couple of teammates while Sean generally steers clear of the water, though he has tried surfing.

"Our water here is not very clear," Daniel said. "On a good diving day, I can see maybe 15 feet in front of my face. On bad days, it's more in that 5-10 foot range, so you're kind of stumbling upon things in the water."

"I really don't t like sharks, so I really don't want to see one of those," Sean said. "I used to go surfing quite a bit, and I got kind of decent at it. But there's something about not being able to see what's below me in the water really freaks me out."

On dry land and with bows in their hands, the twins are always going for the gold, since that's the color of the central ring on the archery target.

Sean said he's dreamed of making the Olympic team since he began shooting.

"Everybody sets goals," he said. "Especially when you join a program like the resident athlete program, you expect so much from yourself. When we have as many people shooting like they are right now, I can go out there and shoot the best I can and on that particular day it might not be good enough. But at the end of the day, I'm still going to be happy for those people that shot well. I know we're going to be sending a really strong team.

"Would I like to be on that team? Absolutely. But am I going to be heartbroken if I don't make it? No, I'm just going to work harder for the next one."

And hope he and his brother both make it.

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