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U.S. Archers Aim For Paris 2024 As Trials Approach Its Final Stage

by Brendan Rourke

Casey Kaufhold competes in the women's recurve finals during the 2024 Pan American Championships on April 14, 2024 in Medellin, Colombia. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)
  • Date: May 13 – 14 (Newberry, Fla.) 

  • Schedule: Event starts at 8:30am both days. Click here for the full breakdown of events.

  • Live Stats Link: USA Archery 

USA Archery’s team selection process for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 is heating up — literally and figuratively — as the U.S.’ top elite archers and Para archers head South to hot and humid Newberry, Florida, to compete in the final stages of trials. As of a few days out, rain and a light wind are expected in the forecast, which could make for an exciting battle with just four Olympic (three women, one man with a chance to claim two more men’s roster spots at a qualification tournament in June) and five Paralympic roster spots (two each for men’s recurve and compound open, one for women’s W1) for Paris on the line.

Archery belongs to a group of Olympic sports that uses a quota-earning process to first secure their country’s roster spots for an upcoming Olympic Games. Because of this, an archer who competes well at a quota-sanctioned international event (the Pan American Games or World Archery Championships, for example) and earns a quota spot for their country may not necessarily be the athlete chosen to represent their country in Paris.

A country can earn a total of six quota spots for the Paris Games — three men and three women. The chosen athletes will compete in five events — men’s and women’s individual, men’s and women’s teams, and a mixed team event. If a country does not earn three spots for a specific gender, it will not be allowed to compete in a team event. It is important to note that although World Archery hosts major events for a wide variety of disciplines (indoor/outdoor archery, target archery, flight archery and ski archery to name a few) and bow types (recurve, compound and barebow), only one discipline (outdoor target) and one bow type (recurve) appear at an Olympic Games.

To choose its athletes for Paris, Team USA has broken up its selection process into six Olympic trials “stages” and three Paralympic stages dating back to August 2023. An aggregate point system is used to rank American archers; the better an archer does, the more points they earn. Most countries use the World Archery rankings as their guideline. Additionally, like professional golf tournaments, cuts are made at certain stages. The field of potential Olympic selections shrinks to 16 after Stage 1 and down to eight after Stage 3. Para archery cuts the field to eight after Stage 2.

After Stage 6 (Stage 3 for Para archery), USA Archery will calculate point totals and award quota spots to its archers based on the final rankings.

As of now, the top three U.S. women's archers ranked nationally will earn spots and comprise the women’s team. Meanwhile, the U.S. men have just one spot up for grabs currently, making the margin for error very slim when they compete in Newberry next week. However, the U.S. has a chance to earn more men’s quota spots at an event in June. Thus, the second- and third-ranked U.S. men’s archers after next week’s event should not be discouraged. But, tensions will be at an all-time high over the next month.

In Para archery, Team USA finished the quota-earning period with five quota slots for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024 after qualifications finished. They earned the maximum two slots in both the recurve men open and compound men open, as well as one slot in the W1 women.

Below are some of the top storylines as both archers and Para archers head into Newberry for the final stages of the selection process:

Brady Ellison competes in the men's recurve finals during the 2023 Archery World Cup Finals on Sept. 10, 2023 in Hermosillo, Mexico. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)

Brady Ellison Is the Man To Beat (Again)…

It’s one thing to mention who an up-and-coming U.S. archer needs to beat to earn a spot in the Paris Games. But it’s another thing entirely to pull it off. Currently ranked No. 2 in the world in men’s recurve (and is responsible for claiming the sole men’s quota spot after winning a mixed team event with Casey Kaufhold), Brady Ellison is in line to make an unprecedented fifth Olympic Games. If the Glendale, Arizona, native does so after Newberry, he will tie the U.S. record for the most Olympic Games appearances in archery. The three-time Olympic medalist has been competing in international archery events since he was a teenager. Now, he’s 35 years old and still at the top of his game, having hovered around the top of the world rankings for just about two decades, often holding the No. 1 spot and a few world records. He has held the top spot in the U.S. rankings in 19 of those 20 years and is the winningest man in world cup recurve archery history. Ellison is well-respected in the archery scene, having overcome medical challenges such as Perthes disease, and helped develop some industry-revolutionizing archery equipment and clothing line with his wife, an internationally acclaimed archer from Slovenia. With just one Paris roster spot available, he is the archer with the biggest target on his back.

If Ellison earns the spot, then only one thing will be left on his mind — the elusive Olympic gold medal. 

Jackson Mirich competes in the men's recurve finals during the 2024 Pan American Championships on April 14, 2024 in Medellin, Colombia. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)

…But The Young U.S. Men’s Archers Have the Talent To Beat Him

Of course, Ellison is well-deserving of the moniker of being the man to beat in Newberry. However, being the astute mentor and veteran that he is, he has helped guide several young American archers into budding stars who may be able to beat him should he have an off day. There are three other male archers that fans should keep an eye on as they turn into future stars of the sport: 

  • Jackson Mirich – Adopted at six months old from South Korea, Mirich has become a rising name in the archery ranks. Mirich started in archery thanks to his mother, who found a Groupon for archery classes and deemed that to be a great way to keep him away from video games during his middle-school years. Now, having picked up a gold medal from the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 in October, the 23-year-old is peaking at the right time and could upset Ellison next week.
  • Jack Williams A 2020 Olympian, Jack Williams is back and looking for another trip to the Olympics himself. Once an international fencer, the 24-year-old turned to archery and has often been “in the shadow” of Ellison, having won team events alongside the veteran but seldom eclipsing him in individual events. However, after claiming several top podium finishes, including Archery World Cup Final Champion and a team gold in Santiago, this could be the event where Williams finally breaks through and bests his teammates for the sole available spot. Not only talented with an archery bow, Williams also is a talented cellist.
  • Trenton Cowles – Though he would be the dark horse pick, the 2018 Youth Olympic Games Champion and Texas A&M University engineering student has the talent to pull off an upset next week. And unlike Mirich, he may have to use all his video game skills to do it. Cowles fell in love with the sport after playing it frequently on Wii Sports Resort. Eventually, his gaming habit coerced him into crafting a stick-and-string bow in his backyard. From there, his support system, which includes his grandparents, has helped mold him into an elite archer. To this day, his grandparents still tag along to major events and grandma always brings a whole suitcase of blenders to make Trenton’s special competition smoothies.
(l-r) Catalina GNoriega, Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez and Casey Kaufhold celebrate after the women's recurve team finals during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games Continental qualifiers for the Americas on April 11, 2024 in Medellin, Colombia. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)

We Will Know the Full Women’s Team Heading To Paris

If Brady Ellison is the household name for men’s archery, then that title belongs to 20-year-old Casey Kaufhold on the women’s side without a doubt. In 2023, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native became the first U.S. woman to hold the world No. 1 rank in women’s recurve archery after besting the hometown favorite at the Olympic archery test event in Paris. As of May 2024, she still stands as the top-ranked women’s archer in the world. She has medaled at every world cup event held in Paris and hopes that trend will continue when the Olympic Games occur. Kaufhold’s archery career also began at a young age. Her parents own the world’s leading archery store and passed down their passion to her and her brother, Connor.

But, while Kaufhold is nearly set to make the team, three archers are looking to battle it out for the final two quota spots:

  • Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez – Born in Boston but raised in Mexico, Mucino-Fernandez has overcome several hardships as she’s chased her childhood dream of becoming an Olympic archer. She’s battled mental burnout after becoming successful at a young age, and her scores are once again on the rise. Her incredible story is easy for fans to root for as she chases Olympic glory.
  • Catalina GNoriega – Born in San Diego, but raised on the Mexico-California border, Gnoriega has been training for this moment since she was a teenager. She competed at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and was selected as the alternate for Tokyo 2020. Now, she looks to take the next step and make her first official Olympic team.
  • Emma Kim – Another name on the rise in women’s U.S. archery is 18-year-old Emma Kim. She has spent the last 7 months training in South Korea under their Olympic head coach. It should be noted that South Korea always ranks among the top countries in the world in archery. Though on the outside looking in, it will be interesting to see what she does with her training in the remaining stages of trials.
Matt Stutzman competes in the men's individual compound archery 1/8 elimination match during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo. (Photo by Getty Images)

Veteran Athletes/Success Stories Lead the Way in Para Archery

If fans of either Netflix documentaries or Paralympic Games Paris 2024 campaigns have good memories, they will already know the name of Matt Stutzman, the man to beat in the compound men’s division of Para archery. The three-time Paralympian, 2021 World Archery Para Champion and a star of Netflix’s Rising Phoenix, was born without arms and has lived his life defying the odds. In addition to being considered a Paralympic medal contender, he can dunk a basketball, race an unmodified truck, raise his three sons and is a highly sought-after motivational speaker. Looking to join him will be either KJ Polish, who seeking a third Paralympic Games appearance and has been an archer since he was three years old, military veteran Lance Thornton or Ben Thompson, who has had a decade-long career as an airplane engineer.

The top names to watch in men’s open recurve are also longstanding Team USA athletes. Kevin Mather is the reigning Paralympic Champion and World Para Champion and will be looking to repeat glory again in Paris. Before archery, Mather competed in Para triathlon and Para alpine skiing. Mather has collected a bevy of gold medals and world records since his breakout year in 2017. Eric Bennett will be looking to claim a Paralympic roster spot for a fifth time in his storied Para archery career. Bennett lost his right arm in a car accident with a drunk driver and fires arrows using a shoulder harness and mouth tab. When not in competition, Bennett is a high-school physics teacher and once taught Brady Ellison. However, the two veterans should keep an eye on 15-year-old Jordan White, who currently sits at No. 2 in trials rankings. White has the talent to keep that spot and claim a roster spot of his own for Paris.

The main athlete to watch in the Women’s W1 division is Tracy Otto. Otto has stared down adversity in the face, overcoming several childhood hardships and tragedies to be the elite athlete she is today. She is an advocate for domestic violence survivors, adaptive sports and has created her own line of adaptive clothing among other fundraising initiatives on her archery journey.