LIMA, Peru – While USA Archery may be full of veterans, it was 15-year-old Casey Kaufhold who stole the show on the final day of competition at the Pan American Games Lima 2019. Her teammates, including three-time Olympic medalist Brady Ellison and five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig, didn’t mind at all.
Highlighted by two veteran-like performances from Kaufhold, the U.S. took home gold in the mixed team recurve final and the women’s team recurve final. To cap off the morning session, the men’s team consisting of Ellison, Jack Williams and Thomas Stanwood earned a bronze medal in the men’s team recurve event. In the afternoon, after losing to Lorig in the women’s individual recurve semifinal, Kaufhold bounced back to win bronze in the individual women’s recurve event. Lorig eventually earned the silver medal.
“I’m really happy that I got an individual medal at my first Pan Am Games,” Kaufhold said of her bronze medal. “I definitely would like to get more in the future. And it’s just the start. So, I know I’ll go farther from here.”
In the second match of the morning, the mixed team of Kaufhold and Ellison stepped up to the shooting line. After dropping the first set to Colombia’s Daniel Pineda and Ana Maria Rendon, the U.S. won the next three sets to secure a 6-2 victory. In the final set, Kaufhold hit two perfect 10s. When the match concluded, members from both Team Canada and Brazil were excited to see the young archer win her first-ever medal, let alone a gold, in an international multi-sport event.
“I’m super happy that we were able to go out there and perform like we had been in practice,” Kaufhold said. “I’m just so grateful that I had a teammate that kept carrying me on, and we helped each other along the way.”
When the U.S. fell behind early, Ellison found a way to alleviate the pressure for the newcomer.
“I was just making her laugh,” Ellison said of the conversation between the first and second set. “She doesn’t like it when I sing to her. So, I just make up some dumb little song, and then she laughs at me, and it’s all good.”
After the final set – their best set of the match – he described how the U.S. got it done.
“Casey and I were having this little internal competition of closest to center,” he said. “And I had won all of them. And she told me before she went up there – she goes, ‘I’m going to beat you this set,’ and her first arrow was on the spider. I was like ‘Well, you may get this one, but I have one more chance at it.’ She goes, ‘not if I Robin Hood it first,’ and then she shot another x. So she got the last end.”
The veteran then added more praise.
“I think that she’s going to be a person that maybe will one day be number one in the world,” Ellison said. “…She’s a good shooter. And she’s one of the few people I’ve seen, in the pressure situation, she shoots better. When she gets under pressure, she steps up and stuffs a couple.”
“Shooting with Brady is always fun,” Kaufhold said. “I always shoot almost my best when I shoot with him. Because he gives me a confidence like nobody else does...he’s just one of the best teammates I can ask for.”
Having little time to rest, Kaufhold raced back to join Lorig and Erin Mickelberry in the women’s team recurve final. Even an equipment malfunction couldn’t stop her. The U.S. switched up their usual order to provide time for her to fix her bow. But it still wasn’t enough.
“I’m super happy that the girls pushed me and gave me that confidence to just get up there and do it anyway,” Kaufhold said of the incident.
“In 30 years of experience, my, I’ve seen everything,” said Lorig. “This is something I’ve never seen, and how she handled it.”
“She’s the beast of the team,” said Mickelberry. “When Casey’s equipment broke, we immediately said, ‘Okay, I’ll go first,’ because I was supposed to shoot right next after her. She jumped in after Khatuna. I was just talking her through, trying to keep her mind straight. We work as a team. We win or lose as a team so we work as a team.”
In the afternoon, teammates Kaufhold and Lorig faced each other in the semifinal. It took all five sets, but Lorig’s perfect 10 on her penultimate shot led to a 6-4 victory, sending Kaufhold to the bronze medal match. Lorig also started the match with a perfect first set, scoring 10s on all three arrows.
Both athletes finished the day on the podium. Kaufhold bounced back to beat Rendon for the second time today, 6-0, in straight sets to win bronze. Lorig fell to Mexico’s Alejandra Valencia, 7-3, in the final and was awarded silver.
“It’s strange,” Lorig joked of standing on the podium with someone 30 years younger. “But my mom always reminds me, ‘Hey, once you were the same age and standing there in those shoes...I just try to mentor them, to help them overcome and move forward.”