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COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Michelle Gilbert, an Olympic hopeful hailing from Bethesda, Maryland, has been a mainstay in the junior and now senior recurve divisions for the past several years. When it came time for college, Gilbert found a way to combine her love of archery with her studies, by enrolling at Texas A&M University as an engineering major.
Gilbert might be on summer break, but that just means it's time to train harder: her next big event is the Archery World Cup in Antalya, Turkey next month.
"I would love the chance to get to compete in the finals venue again, either individually, team, or both," Gilbert notes. "At the last World Cup I attended, I nearly took out the #2 ranked archer in the world at that time, Deepika Kumari, in a one arrow shoot-off. This time I'd like to win the shoot-off and keep competing."
Gilbert will be part of a strong U.S. squad in Turkey, including five time Olympian Khatuna Lorig, three time Olympian Jennifer Nichols and rising star Mackenzie Brown: "To prepare for the event I am spending a few weeks at home to train with my coach, my dad, and catch up on much needed sleep."
Though she was focused on her studies during the school year, Gilbert was no slouch during the collegiate archery season, either. Competing at the Aggie Invitational, Gilbert shot a 590/600 in her final half: a score that, at the time, would have broken the junior world record.
"I won both indoor and outdoor Collegiate Nationals while shooting personal bests indoors and I earned All-American with Academic Honors," Gilbert says of her collegiate archery career this year. "The archery club at TAMU has been a big part of my life in college and I've had a lot of fun shooting with my teammates throughout the year."
It is no small feat to manage an engineering major and elite level training, but Gilbert pulls it off. "In a good week, I would shoot about 1/3 the number of arrows as I would at home. However, I've been keeping up my strength by doing holding SPTs (Specific Physical Training) in my dorm room with a bow trainer each night when I didn't get to shoot very much."
Having less time to practice has even had some advantageous aspects; Gilbert says her "hectic schedule with school and archery has made me put archery into perspective. I do not have time to overthink archery anymore and am not as critical with myself as I was in the past regarding my performance and scores. I believe this has influenced my ability to shoot at even higher levels by eliminating some self-produced pressure."
Gilbert's long-term focus has turned to making the Rio 2016 Olympic Team. When asked what advice she'd share with younger archers who have Olympic and Paralympic dreams, she says: "I think the best advice that I can give young competitors is to keep these two goals in mind while competing: find your practice form in competitions and finish strong.
"Finding my practice form on the competition field will give me the best chance of performing well and winning with the shot I've trained. Finishing each shot, each end, and each match or distance strong helps me maintain my focus. I don't have to win or perform well score wise, but when I successfully accomplish those two goals I typically perform very well without thinking about my scores during the process."
Follow Michelle and the rest of Team USA throughout the 2014 season on USA Archery's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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