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Diagnosed with McCune-Albright syndrome at the age of 4, which led to multiple bone fractures and surgeries, eventually Carmichael’s femurs and tibias were rodded with steel and titanium rods. She found archery at age 13 and quickly went on to set multiple Texas state, U.S. national and world records.
For Carmichael: “It began in Athens; the overwhelming and heart stopping joy of entering Oaka Stadium with Team USA and hearing thousands of voices from around the world give out a cheer that resonated in my bones. What it was like to experience at age 19 an entirely unique community of disabled people from dozens of countries, making a profound impact on me by showing what life could be like in a world of accessibility, acceptance, and celebration of the disabled philosophy of adapting and overcoming obstacles.”
Carmichael set a world record in the ranking round before going on to finish 6th. She then fought through four hard years of target panic and injuries, rebuilding her mental game just in time to qualify a slot for USA for the Beijing Games. Carmichael overcame watching her world record fall, and then had to face the reigning Paralympic Champion Wang Yanhong of China in her first match.
“Can you imagine what it was like to have to face her in my very first round of competition with a stadium packed full of Chinese spectators?” shared Carmichael. “And to win that match, and to find her afterwards to give her the biggest hug I possibly could while we both teared up. What it was like to surprise myself and everyone by winning match after match, until an excruciating, heart-stopping one arrow-shoot off in the Semifinal with Lee Hwa-Sook. With ten seconds left on the clock, I let down my draw with shaky hands. I drew again and made a desperate shot with four seconds left. And lost by a single point.”
“The story from there is one of the defining moments of my life,” added Carmichael. “What it felt like to face that crushing loss of a Gold or Silver because of a single point and my own anxiety and deep fears of failure. What it was like to go into the tunnel between stadiums, knowing I had just fifteen minutes to compete for Bronze or nothing. The Team USA Sports Psychologist who was there told me later that he had never seen a comeback and mental fortitude like I showed in that moment, as I managed my mental game to accept my defeat and focus on what was still in my capability to achieve. I went from sobbing to smiling and waving at the crowd, and both feelings were genuine.”
“When I stepped out onto the field to compete for Bronze against a woman who had been shooting archery longer than I'd been alive, I remember simply wanting to shoot so that I'd be proud of myself when I left the field. It's part of a larger metaphor of how I want to live with my lifelong disability, and the choices I make as an athlete and an individual.”
It is Carmichael’s hope that her story can inspire other girls and women to know what is possible. As a young archer at her first JOAD Nationals, Carmichael was inspired by stories of Denise Parker: “She used to compete with arrows that weren't perfectly straight, and she trained so hard she knew each individual arrow's idiosyncrasies and succeeded anyway. I wanted very badly to be like her. Because of that story, I didn't give up.”
“Seeing two women on the Paralympic archery team for Tokyo, Emma Rose Ravish and Lia Coryell, my heart wants to burst,” added Carmichael. “I want to be in the stands cheering them on so badly, but I hope they know this Paralympian in Texas will be screaming my heart out for them. They absolutely deserve crowds cheering them on and witnessing what they’re about to do, but regardless of who is in the stands, they get to create their own paths, set their own memories, and I’m just so excited for them and proud of Team USA to have two women competing at the Paralympics for archery again.”
Carmichael shared her advice for Coryell and Ravish: “I have this talent in my archery career that I wish I could just pass on to them. For me, so much of my story is about making comebacks. I perform my best just after an injury or struggle with my mental game, but there’s just something in me that loves to rise to the occasion and I wish that I could pass that on to them so that whatever they experience, I hope that they are able to find that spark within themselves, the joy of archery and what brings them to the sport and makes them proud.”
"I hope they bring home medals; I hope there is someone else to join me in that. I'm the only U.S. female archer to have won an individual medal for the United States in archery since Susan Hagel's Bronze Medal in the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta. It would be a thrill to see Emma Rose and Lia join us in that. No matter what, though, they're already a part of history in U.S. Para archery and U.S. women's archery. They're carrying the torch forward, and they're already making us proud."< Back to All News