Teen Archer Gabi Sasai Continues Her Rise In The Sport

by Joanne C. Gerstner

(L-R) Gabi Sasai and Brady Ellison pose for a picture at the 2022 Archery World Cup Stage 1 on April 24, 2022 in Antalya, Turkey.


American Gabi Sasai is quickly figuring out the path to becoming one of rising stars in archery. Hard work and practice are givens. The secret sauce to improving is simple: capitalizing on the competition opportunities against the world’s best.
Sasai, a 16-year-old from Seattle, just made a big splash in her first world cup, winning a bronze medal with three-time Olympic medalist Brady Ellison in the team event in Turkey. Sasai was also the top American female finisher in Antalya.
The world cup schedule rolls on for Sasai with an event in Gwangju, South Korea, running May 16-22. She is ranked No. 85 in the world, and knows these events are steppingstones in her young career.
“I go there to soak everything up,” Sasai said. “I’m really excited to go to South Korea, because I’ve never been in continental Asia. So that is super cool. Outside of the archery competition, I can’t wait to see my international friends in the other delegations. It will be fun.”
Sasai’s positive experiences in Turkey may set her up to do well in Gwangju. She admits her first world cup was a lot to take in. Defusing pressure, dealing with top competitors, and paying attention to every detail were all lessons learned in person, with a little mentoring help from Ellison.
“You have no idea what it feels like. There is so much big energy out there that you have to deal with,” she said. “I’m expecting the cramped spaces, and you need to get on that target and go. They’re not polite about squeezing you out on the target. You have to know what you need to do and the conditions. I had to mentally desensitize myself to everything that was happening around me in Turkey. Once I understood that, it got easier. Brady was so chill and funny, so that helped.
“I feel less concerned going to South Korea, there is less unknown now to me. I am just going to the tournament with the expectation of doing my best and shooting well.”
Sasai started archery at 6, thanks to her dad David being a fan of the sport. Her success since then has resulted in a big collection of plaques, medals, and trophies. She stored her awards in a bag, dubbed the “shopping bag of glory”, until it broke. David replaced it with a plastic box (of glory) and the world cup bronze medal sits on the top of the stored stash in her room.

Gabi Sasai competes at the 2022 Archery World Cup Stage 1 on April 24, 2022 in Antalya, Turkey.


Sasai is busy, mixing being an in-person high school student with her growing portfolio of big competitions. She has figured out how to do her studies along with the demands of practice and competition. Her school excuses her for the days missed, as she makes up the work.
“I’ve noticed that my life has a faster pace to it, as I’ve made it to higher levels of archery,” Sasai said. “I’m in and out of the house more, like home for two weeks max and then out to another tournament.”
The COVID-19 pandemic threw her schooling online, but also opened up opportunities for her to practice more. Her church allowed her to use its full-sized soccer field during the pandemic, meaning she could safely practice shooting by herself. It was just Sasai, her gear and the target — for many hours of uninterrupted practicing.
“I think I personally benefitted a lot because I was so lucky to have a place close to me where I could go to train when everything was shut down. I know other athletes in other sports did not have that,” she said. “When school got out, I was training until it got dark. So that really helped me improve.”
Sasai’s increasing schedule means she keeps in touch with friends through texting and FaceTime, with the group sharing their days in small summaries. She also uses her Instagram account (@gabi365archery) as a virtual diary of her archery, logging competition and practice days.
Sasai sees her next progression in archery coming from the mental side. Very little space separates the world’s best, in terms of points. The differential comes down to who can maximize their performance under the pressure and changing conditions.
“There is a lot of room in my mind to develop myself,” she said. “Mentally, going forward, these experiences will be the ones that help me grow. You can prepare as much as you want, but you can’t simulate what you face in the initial shock of being in the tournament. The wave of emotion is real: like relief, excitement, all the stuff you put into this to make it be so worth it. The more I do this, the more I can keep growing. Which is cool.”

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.