A line of young archery hopefuls formed a lengthy line to meet one of their role models last week in Louisville, Kentucky.
Waiting to greet each of them was 22-year-old Olympian Mackenzie Brown, who returned to the program where it all started for her 12 years ago.
Brown sat at a sponsor’s booth at the National Archery in the Schools Program national tournament to sign autographs and take photos with everyone.
“It started off as a few people but turned into a pretty big line, and I thought, ‘This is so cool,’” Brown said. “It’s also really cool to them because they know it’s where I started and they can do that, too. I’m glad it can be an inspiration, and I’m hoping to inspire them to be the best they can be.”
Brown, who got her start at age 10 at NASP in Texas, was the only American women’s archer to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016. She was eliminated in the recurve Round of 32 in Rio, but her confidence soared with the experience.
This week she’s competing in China at the Shanghai Archery World Cup Stage 1. Although her focus only recently got back into archery. After the Olympics she took a substantial amount of time off from training, and spent most of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in Texas with her friends and family.
When she got back to training in early 2017, she had to reduce her draw back weight from 45-46 to 39-40 in order to regain her rhythm. Training six days a week at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California, has brought her back up to speed, and weight, and now she aims at the World Cup Final in September in Rome, the world championships in Mexico City in October and, long term, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“This season I want to get back into the top 10 in the world,” she said. “Rio gave me a lot of confidence, but I didn’t do as well as I hoped and it lit a fire under me to get to Tokyo and medal.”
Brown said she’s back up to 44-pound draw back weight, and that she fires about 2,000 arrows a week in Chula Vista. Four days a week the archers shoot 400 arrows apiece, and they shoot around 200 the other two days.
Brown grew up in Flint, Texas, which is a rural town outside a suburb of Tyler in east Texas. She was homeschooled, and her parents got her into archery at a young age.
The NASP program led to her shooting on the junior Olympic level and, at age 16, the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Although she fell short of the London Games, Brown has been steadily improving ever since.
She’s won a handful of individual and team medals across all age groups from team silver at the 2012 Pan American Championships to individual silver medals at the 2015 World Archery Youth Championships and 2016 Indoor Archery World Cup Final.
Brown said the Olympic experience is beneficial for her career moving forward because of the extracurricular events and grand stage.
“I needed to learn how to handle myself for the Olympics,” she said. “The mental side was fine, and I everything did good. But I need to shoot a little more aggressively and not be too hesitant. I need to go out there and shoot like I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Like many American Olympians, Brown opted to get the Olympic rings tattoo, but not the traditional design. She and her father, Chuck Brown, came up with their own design. Brown’s tattoo on her wrist consists of the circular formations and colors of the Olympic rings, but each of the rings is an arrow wrapped into a circle.
“I wanted something that was unique to me, and the artist did a great job on it,” Brown said.
Brown said after 2020 she hopes to get into teaching or coaching, but she isn’t quite certain of the educational path she’ll take to get there. She does plan to attend college, but not until business is finished on the range.
“I’m going to concentrate on my training, getting ranked as high as I can and compete well at international and national events,” said Brown, who said she’s also embraced a leadership role at USA Archery.
Scott McDonald has 18 years experience in sports reporting. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.