NewsCasey KaufholdOlympic Archery Trials

The Last Five Years: How Casey Kaufhold Has Become a Veteran Archer at Age 20

by Brendan Rourke

Casey Kaufhold competes in the women's recurve finals during the 2023 Archery World Cup Stage 4 on Aug. 20, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)

Casey Kaufhold has learned a lot since competing in her first major international games experience at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 at the age of 15. For starters, she now remembers to bring extra equipment.


“I have a full backup bow setup that I bring everywhere now,” she laughed.


After securing a bronze medal in the women’s individual competition, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native raced back to the shooting line to prepare for the team event. She was slated to shoot first in the rotation, with her veteran archery teammates Erin Mickelberry and Khatuna Lorig anchoring the team.


However, when she reached down to pick up her bow, she noticed that her stabilizer – the counterweight that reduces shock and vibration generated by the bowstring upon release – had broken in two. Her teammates offered to shoot first, hoping she could find a quick-fix before having to fire. But, the stabilizer was broken beyond repair. She shot high, hitting the outer ring to record just four points.


That arrow’s score is well below the 10-point bullseyes Kaufhold has now grown accustomed to as she’s ascended to the top of World Archery’s rankings in women’s recurve – a feat no other U.S. woman has done. But, in an illustration of her quick-thinking, the then-teenager made a veteran-like adjustment, and aimed far lower at the target for her second shot in the rotation. The arrow struck the target in the center ring for 10 points.


The trio of Mickelberry, Lorig and Kaufhold ended up securing team gold.


After the event, Lorig, who won an Olympic bronze medal with the “Unified Team” in the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992, stated she had never seen anything like that in her 35+ year archery career. Kaufhold noted that nearly all elite archers never shoot without a stabilizer, even in training.


Flash forward to the present, as Kaufhold, now 20 years old, reminisced to Team USA about what she has learned over the past five years as she attempts to make her second Olympic team. While she made sure to be in the passenger’s seat for this interview, she’s figuratively in the driver’s seat heading into the final stages of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Archery, which take place from May 11-14 in Newberry, Florida.


A solid performance would guarantee her a spot at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.


“I have to keep the mindset that I still have to fight really hard for a spot,” Kaufhold said. “Some people, sometimes make the mistake and settle when they know they’re ahead. But I think it’s important to keep pushing on the gas and try your hardest.”

Casey Kaufhold competes in the women's recurve finals during the 2023 Archery World Cup event on Sept. 10, 2023 in Hermosillo, Mexico. (Photo by Getty Images)

Unlike some Olympic sports which are “win and in,” archery uses a quota system, meaning any archer can win an event to open up an Olympic roster spot for Team USA. However, an individual is not guaranteed that spot. They must still compete and beat other American archers over six official events (trials) where points are total based on final finishes in those events.

Kaufhold, who grew up competing against her brother in archery and entered her first tournament at eight years old, states that she likes this system.

“It keeps me at the top of my game for all the tournaments,” she said. “You can’t slack at all, because every tournament is points (towards qualification), and each stage gets harder and harder. I like that it’s not guaranteed.”

It’s difficult to state that a 20-year-old is a veteran of the sport, especially when Kaufhold admits that some of her teammates over the years like Mickelberry, Lorig, and four-time Olympian Brady Ellison have been shooting “before [she] was even born.” But, when one listens to how she approaches the sport, it’s also difficult not to call her one.

Aside from having that extra-competitive mindset, atop of Kaufhold’s list of veteran traits is being able to absorb information from every teammate she can. Archery is a unique Olympic sport in that it does not have an age discrepancy. That’s evident when looking at her teammates in Lima. Lorig won her Olympic bronze in 1992 – 12 years before Kaufhold was born. She also was responsible for training Jennifer Lawrence before the actress debuted in “The Hunger Games,” a movie that released when Kaufhold was eight. Mickelberry started shooting in 1998. Additionally, her current mixed-team partner, major mentor, and the proverbial “face of USA Archery,” Ellison, had been to three Olympics before she made her first.

“The first time I ever shot with Brady, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m actually going to shoot with Brady Ellison,” she reminisced. “But he did a really good job of just saying, ‘Hey, I’m just like any other person. This isn’t anything special. You’re just going to go shoot the same shots you always do.' To have him say those things, it’s super encouraging.”

When tensions rose in Lima, Ellison once again provided veteran leadership. After the event, he said he tried to relieve tense moments at the line by singing a “dumb little song” and making a friendly “I bet I can hit the ‘X’ in the center of the 10 more times than you” competition between the two of them. Similar to the women’s team event, the duo ended up on the top of the podium with gold.

Casey Kaufhold reacts after winning the women's recurve finals during the 2023 Archery World Cup on Aug. 20, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)

Unbeknownst to her, Ellison also predicted the future in that moment.


Post-Lima, Ellison praised Kaufhold, stating, “I think that she’s going to be a person that maybe will one day be number one in the world.”


She accomplished that feat in 2023 after beating French archer Lisa Barbelin on Barbelin’s home turf during archery’s Olympic test event in Paris.


“That’s huge to me,” Kaufhold smiled after hearing what Ellison said for the first time.


Kaufhold also mentioned that Ellison has taught her to treat competitions like a practice.


“You practice and practice and practice until you know your shot so well that it feels perfect,” she began. “Then, you go to a competition. And at first everybody tries so hard. Why would you “try harder” than any other time you did at practice?


“So, the thing that he’s taught me is that no matter where you are, just step up there and do the same thing you do every time. It’s nothing special. It’s still the same you, the same bow, the same arrow, and the same target.”


Kaufhold also possesses the ability to learn from her personal experiences. Recently, she enrolled at Texas A&M University and competed alongside her brother on the school’s top-ranked college archery team. Although she’s stepped away from school to put her full attention on making the Paris roster, she took notes of some things she wants to bring to the professional stage. Most notably, the fun atmosphere of collegiate archery.


“Something I loved about it is how much people get into it,” she began. “I have never seen such crazy crowds for any other event that I shoot at. They get so hyped up and it’s so cool to see.”


Kaufhold compared the professional archery scene to professional golf. But, she’s hoping she can change that from what she saw in college.


“People are there and they like watching it,” she said. “But, they’re not going to be the soccer fans who are insane and screaming. In collegiate archery, the community is so tight-knit. When your teammate is up there, you’re screaming and yelling and doing everything you can to hype people up. That’s something I want to bring to professional archery.”


After enduring an Olympics without a crowd, she’s ready to hear it roar once again. She heard a sample of what Paris could bring when she bested Barbelin on her own turf. Despite that crowd chanting her opponent’s name during the Olympic test event in Paris, Kaufhold looked at the positives, stating that she loved every second of it. She also loved when her handful of teammates retaliated with a “Ca-sey, Ca-sey, Ca-sey” chant even though the volume of it paled in comparison.

Casey Kaufhold competes in the recurve mixed team finals during the Archery World Cup 2023 Stage 1 on April 23, 2023 in Antalya, Turkey. (Photo by World Archery via Getty Images)

Training to be an elite-level athlete as a teenager can take its toll, especially in an individual sport. For instance, Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez, a Paris hopeful and one of Kaufhold’s teammates from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, discussed her fight with mental burnout when she trained as a teen pre-Tokyo. Now, they’re great friends, and Kaufhold detailed her ways of staying even-keeled.

“The biggest thing I’ve done to avoid burnout is having a balance,” she began. “Even though I’m not doing school right now, I just bought a house (in her hometown of Lancaster). So, that’s something to take care of.”

Kaufhold added that while it’s “been a lot of work,” she admitted that doing routine upkeep such as cleaning, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, or doing renovations “keep her busy” with non-archery related thoughts.

“It’s just something to do outside of shooting,” she concluded. 

Kaufhold’s veteran-minded stance is again reflected in the Instagram post she published before the end of 2023. The post highlighted several non-archery achievements, including her house purchase, her stint at college, and her ability to dedicate some of her limited spare time to hobbies like drawing and refurbishing furniture.

On the field of play, that veteran persona appears again. In addition to a wide age range of athletes, archery is also unique in that a country’s teammates can be paired against each other in individual events. Despite this, she emphasizes keeping team bonds strong during events.

“At the end of the day, we’re all competing for the same thing,” she said. “I think it’s awesome to see how many friends that I’ve made from being involved with USA Archery. Even though we’re all competing against each other, I’m still ‘all-in’ on cheering for Team USA athletes.”

Kaufhold stated that in her most recent competition, she was in the same bracket as her best friend, Mucino-Fernandez, for the very first match.

“It sucks because even though you want her to win, you still obviously want yourself to win,” she said with a laugh. “It’s hard, but at the end of the day you think, ‘no matter who wins, Team USA is moving on to the next round.

“I love being a part of Team USA archery. Everybody does a great job of helping get close together and be supportive of each other.”

Things get hard when they aren't fun.
Casey Kaufhold smiling and holding her bow
Casey Kaufhold

Finally, like a veteran who has been doing interviews for their entire career, Kaufhold spoke a phrase with a chuckle that summed up every piece of information she has absorbed since Lima.


“Things get hard when they aren’t fun.”


While her ultimate goal is a gold medal at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, she also strives to be at the forefront of bringing changes to the sport both large and small. Not only does she want to crack jokes before shots and bring fun atmospheres to the professional stage, but she also wants to highlight lessons learned from others, pass on tips on how to remain mentally balanced, and, ultimately, bring more people into the world of archery.


“Something I like to say is that archers come in all shapes and sizes,” she stated. “You look at gymnasts or swimmers and they all have one body type. If you don’t have that body type, you might not be as successful as other athletes. But, with archery you see tall, small, thin and heavy. There are so many people that can be good at archery. That’s something that I can use to attract people to it – you can be who you are.”


By all accounts, 20-year-old Casey Kaufhold is already a veteran archer.

Casey Kaufhold poses during a photoshoot during the 2024 Team USA Media Summit on April 17, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Getty Images)