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December 27, 2023

How an impulse purchase helped Jackson Mirich discover his true talent

The saying ‘mom knows best’ was never truer than in the case of Kerry Mirich, the mom of 2023 Pan American Games champion Jackson Mirich who hopes to become an Olympian in 2024.

Many of us will have taken advantage of an online site to book a friend or family member a treat, whether that be a restaurant voucher, an annual pass for a local museum, a spa day or even an afternoon zip-lining through the trees.

Mrs. Mirich used such a site when working on a way to encourage her son to take to the great outdoors.

“I was very much attached to video games when I was younger,” admits Jackson Mirich. “That was about when I was 12 or 13.

“Every summer I would just play video games and my mom had never really been a big fan of that so once she noticed that was becoming too much of a problem, she told me I couldn’t do that anymore … so she signed me up for an archery class through Groupon!

“It was the first sport activity which Groupon were advertising the day on which my mom looked on there,” Mirich added. “So, she was like ‘whatever, just go do it and if you don’t like it we’ll find another group sport.

“I went to my first class. The instructor told me to keep going, so I did, and here I am.”

Up to that point, Mirich had struggled to find a sport he wanted to do. Those he leant toward required a certain level of strength and/or height.

Mirich said, “I didn’t fit the description of any of those sports, and when archery came along – I didn’t really want to do it at first – it’s all I had so I threw myself into it because that’s how I am and thankfully it all paid out and I’m just so thankful to my parents for ‘forcing’ me into it as it’s taught me so many life lessons.”

Initially, Mirich had no intentions of taking this new-found sport seriously. It was viewed as an opportunity to get away from his games console, and so at the start it was merely for fun.

That changed once legendary coach Dick Tone took him under his wing after his previous coach was forced to step away to have back surgery.

“Dick had just started doing lessons for the shop I was shooting under as part of their JOAD program,” explained Mirich. “He started doing advanced lessons, so my mom threw me in there.”

The headstrong Mirich continued with a laugh, “I absolutely hated it; I did not want to do it. I did not want to change my technique; I didn’t want to listen.

“But, oh my gosh, he (Dick Tone) had so much patience and made me do what needed to be done and I owe him a lot.”

There is no clear path to success. It is fair to say, Mirich’s path to pulling on the Team USA jersey has been a little different.

Born in South Korea in February 2001, he was adopted by Gary and Kerry Mirich, arriving in Phoenix in the August of that year when aged around six months. He has a sister, Parker, who had made the same journey two years earlier.

Next August it will be 23 years since Mirich made the move from South Korea to the United States. The 2024 Olympic Games take place in Paris from July 26-August 11 and Mirich – now an established international archer – said, “My biggest focus for 2024 is making the Olympic team first and then going to the 2024 Olympics.”

Mirich will compete in Stage #3 of the 2024 Olympic Trials Qualification Event in his home state of Arizona in early April, sitting fourth out of 16 after the first two stages. He will line-up alongside the 15 other hopefuls as the reigning Pan American Games champion having triumphed in Santiago, Chile in November, a win which lifted him to his highest world ranking to date of 25.

That gold medal win came off the back of a mixed year, during which he placed first at Arizona Cup, then second at Gator Cup – the first two USAT Events of 2023. Things did not go so well at the World Archery Championships in Berlin, with the USA chasing an Olympic Games quota slot.

An honest Mirich added, “I did not shoot as well as we needed me to shoot so I felt like I let the team down. It upset me because that was our one chance of being able to qualify without the worries of ‘ok, now we really need to qualify’."

With competition coming thick and fast at this point of the year, Mirich had little time to dwell on the Berlin disappointment. There was World Cup stage 4 in Paris, followed by the USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open and the first two stages of Olympic Trials Qualification.

“I realized that Pan Am Games were right around the corner – there was no rest at this point,” he said. “I put in a lot of hard work towards my mental side and more of just trusting myself and being more overall confident when I shoot and thankfully it paid off.”

His strength of character and quality shone through, though, at the Pan Am Games, which was made extra special in having his parents present. And, after feeling he let the team down in Berlin, victory will have been even sweeter as they returned from Santiago with the men’s quota slot.

There were two avenues to securing the slot; one was claiming gold in the recurve mixed team event and the other was a top two individual men’s finish. Brady Ellison and Casey Kaufhold won mixed team gold before Mirich topped the podium in the individual men’s event.

Mirich is already among the USA’s best archers, and in recent years he has paid more attention to the mental side of the sport, allowing him to shoot in the moment, something which was evident in Chile.

“It was something I’d been working on a lot,” began Mirich. “And I think at Pan American Games is when it came out.

“Whenever we were getting ready to shoot, for me it was like ‘ok, this is a battle’. That’s how I thought going into each match. It was more on the aggressive side so that when it had meaning behind it I guess I had that killer instinct.”

Jackson Mirich first took up the sport of archery to get out from under his mom’s feet during the long summer break. Next summer he is hoping his mom, dad and sister get to watch him on the world’s greatest stage.

And to think, it all began with an internet search and a Groupon voucher, since when it has been the gift which has kept on giving.

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