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SANTIAGO, Chile – Archery at the Pan Am Games gets underway with official practice on Tuesday and promises more than simply gold, silver and bronze for podium places, with Olympic quota slots also on offer.
Casey Kaufhold secured a first Olympic quota slot for the United States in August when finishing fourth in the recurve women event at the World Archery Championships in Berlin. The Olympic Games take place in Paris from July 26-August 11, 2024.
Focus this week shifts to the recurve men as they push for a quota slot of their own. Leading the charge will be a veteran of four Olympic Games, Brady Ellison. He is joined on the men’s side by Trenton Cowles, Jackson Mirich and Jack Williams. Ellison won mixed team gold with Kaufhold four years ago in Lima, Peru, as well as team bronze alongside Williams and Thomas Stanwood.
With one women’s spot locked up already, the U.S. can secure a maximum of one men’s spot in Santiago, with the highest placed mixed team, or a top two individual men’s finish.
“Statistically, this should be the easiest place for us to pick up the men’s spot, with just the numbers and the field,” admitted Ellison. “It’s still a really tough tournament, because you have the number one archer in the world down here, who was also silver medalist at World Championships (Marcus D’ Almeida of Brazil), myself, so - with others - four or five top 10-ranked archers in the world.
“If we've got a spot for the men and the women after this week, it takes a little bit of stress off going into the next two times that we can get it later on next year.”
The next opportunity to claim quota slots comes at the Pan Am Championships event in the Spring of 2024. The final qualification tournament will be held with World Cup 3 in June 2024.
Quota spots do not go to the individual archer or team, rather to the country. To select athletes to the U.S. team quota slots, USA Archery is hosting a multi-stage U.S. Team Olympic Trials. So far, there have been two of the six stages. Stages #3 and #4 take place in Arizona in early April.
The recurve women include Catalina G'Noriega, Kaufhold and Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez. Kaufhold won team and mixed team gold at the Pan Am Games in 2019, plus an individual bronze.
In mid-September Kaufhold became the first recurve woman from the USA to hold the number one spot in the world rankings since the inception of the system in 2001. Korea's Lim Si-hyeon now occupies that position after success at the Asian Games earlier this month. Kaufhold can regain her world number one ranking in Santiago, but stresses that is not her main focus.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve recognized,” claimed the 19-year-old. “But it’s not something that I’m going to be focusing on while shooting because the biggest thing, I think, is you can’t think forwards, you can’t think backwards, you’ve got to be present.”
Recurve competition kicks off the archery event on Wednesday with men’s and women’s ranking rounds. This is then followed by compound and the USA has two archers in each division. Kris Schaff and Sawyer Sullivan contest the compound men, while Olivia Dean and Alexis Ruiz will be in the compound women.
For both categories, the first day of competition will include team elimination rounds, up to the semifinals.
Ruiz is seeking to cap an incredible comeback year, having returned to high-level competition on completing nursing school. Already this year she has won mixed team gold at the World Championships in Berlin. The former women’s world number one also claimed team gold at the World Cup Stage #3 in Medellin, Colombia as well as individual gold at the SoCal Showdown in Chula Vista, Calif.
“My plan at the beginning of the year was just to get back on the stage after finishing nursing school,” Ruiz said. “It turned out really well. I’m getting used to my new practice schedule, while being a nurse.
“I don’t think my goals changed. Just do the best that I can. I know what I’m capable of. As long as I do the best that I can every tournament, then I’m happy with the outcome.”
Schaff arrived in Santiago from the chilly conditions of Montana, and suggested he is in the best form of the year, adding, “Everybody wants to win and that’s what I came down here to do.
“There’s three disciplines this year for the compound – we have individual, mixed team and they added a two person men’s team and two person women’s team – so Sawyer (Sullivan) and I are going to get to team up for part of it, so hopefully bring home three gold medals.”