Does the United States have a kind of advantage by being the host country?
Three archers have put themselves in a position to find out, as they advanced Thursday to the gold medal matches this weekend at the World Archery Youth Championships (WAYC) in Yankton.
Despite a persistent rain coupled with windy conditions, three members of the Team USA contingent won their semifinal matches Thursday in their respective divisions of the week-long tournament.
David Houser, Collin Klimitchek and Mackenzie Brown will go for the gold medal this weekend in the finals, which are open to the public and will be held outside the main entrance to the Easton Yankton Archery Complex.
Do those three USA archers have an edge?
“There’s a little bit of a home field advantage, yeah,” said Houser, a 17-year-old from Pennsylvania.
Of the three archers to reach the finals, Houser was perhaps the most surprising. He was the No. 14 seed in the Compound Junior Men division, and edged Russia’s Hanno De Klerk by one point in the quarterfinals and beat Croatia’s Mario Vavro (the No. 2 seed) by four points in the semifinals.
Houser will now face top-ranked Stephan Hansen of Denmark in Saturday’s finals.
“There’s not extra pressure, but you want to perform better because you’re in the United States,” Houser said.
It is the same situation for Klimitchek and Brown. Klimitchek will face Korea’s Byeongyeon Min in Sunday’s Recurve Junior Men finals, while Brown will match up with Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Mao Peng for the Recurve Junior Women gold medal Sunday.
With the United States playing host to the WAYC for the first time since 2009, it has allowed parents and other spectators to make the trip to Yankton to cheer on the Team USA archers.
“It’s nice because a lot of people who came out here wouldn’t be able to travel if it was somewhere else,” Houser said.
For Houser, archery isn’t just an activity he enjoys, it’s a passion.
The full-time shooter graduated from high school on June and plans to attend Penn State University this fall, and compete for the school’s archery team.
Despite being busy wrapping up his high school career, Houser practiced between 2-4 hours a day to prepare for the WAYC, he said.
“I felt pretty confident coming in,” Houser said. “I had been training a lot for this.”
No stranger to U.S. archery fans, he has regularly competed in National Field Archery Association (NFAA) and Archery Shooters Association (ASA) events, and reached the finals in this year’s Indoor World Cup.
Even though it is his first WAYC, Houser’s experience in those other prestigious events – coupled with what he knows of the WAYC finals setup – has him feeling confident.
“I at least have an idea of what to expect,” he said.
-- Jeremy Hoeck
Battling Rain & Wind
On Wednesday, the weather took a complete 180 as archers had to compete in cold, rainy weather conditions.
Emily Fischer, a member of Team USA, said the weather wasn’t great, but people still shot well.
“It was freezing. It was not a fun day, but everyone shot pretty good,” she said.
Try your hardest not to think about it and make sure you make a strong shot, Fischer said.
Emily competed in the Compound Junior division.
Paige Pearce, who was also on Emily’s team, has competed at the World Archery Youth Championships five times.
James House, an archer from Great Britain said he has dealt with bad weather conditions before.
“The weather is pretty tough, but it is pretty much the same in Britain at most competitions, “House said.
It’s not usually this wet, but rainy, he said.
Team matches will happen on Friday and individual matches will start again on Saturday.
-- Dylan Huggins
The support system that will be cheering on Viktor Orosz in his pursuit Saturday of a gold medal will be rather small: Just two other people.
Orosz, a 16-year-old from Hungary, is the lone participant this week from his home country but has advanced all the way to the finals in the Compound Cadet Men division.
Archery is not a popular sport in Hungary, Orosz said after his semifinal win Thursday. But he said he realizes he has family and friends back home following along with his results.
“It’s a good thing to know your country is for (supporting) you,” Orosz said.
And he’s given them plenty of chances to do that over the past year.
Orosz captured a gold medal at the World Archery Indoor Championships last year in France. And earlier this year in Slovenia, became the first Hungarian archer to win first place at the European Archery Indoor Championships.
Those experiences have no doubt helped Orosz in his run to the gold medal match this week, he said.
“Before those, it was smaller tournaments,” Orosz said. “I found out how to shoot at big competitions.”
What kick-started Orosz’s string of recent success? Performance under pressure, he said.
“It was a situation where you have to do well, and I did well,” Orosz said.
He was also faced with a new challenge Thursday: The weather, with persistent rain and wind.
“I found out that I can shoot in those kinds of conditions,” Orosz said with a smile.
The most challenging part for him, as opposed to many other archers, was keeping the lenses of his glasses dry.
“The wind, you can’t do anything with, but the rain, you have to stay warm and always clean your classes,” Orosz said.
Orosz will face Turkey’s Serdar Bortay Maras for the gold medal on Saturday.
-- Jeremy Hoeck
Competing Against Teammates
Some archers found themselves competing against their own teammates on Thursday in individual matches.
Denmark archers Tanja Jensen and Sarah Sonnichsen both competed in the junior women division.
Both girls thought they had a great day at the archery meet.
“Pretty good I would say. The wind has been tricky on all of us, but I think we did our best and got really far,” Jensen said.
I just want to shoot 10’s and in the end just have fun with it, Sonnichsen said.
Sonnichsen and Jensen will both be facing off against each other on Saturday for a gold medal.
James House of Great Britain also had to face one of his teammates in the competition.
House won in a shoot off against his teammate Luke Ralls in the Compound Cadet division. With the win, House advanced to quarterfinals.
House wasn’t thrilled about defeating one of his teammates.
“That was horrible. We shouldn’t have met that way. We should have been in the gold. It was honestly luck and skill,” he said before his semifinal match.
House eventually lost in the semifinals, but will compete against Jess Sut of Italy for the bronze medal on Saturday.
-- Dylan Huggins