(L-R) Gabi Sasai and Brady Ellison hug during the mixed team event at the 2022 Archery World Cup on April 22, 2022 in Antalya, Turkey.
Gabi Sasai was 6 years old when gymnast Gabby Douglas won the Olympic all-around gold medal in 2012, and it made an impression.
“She just kept saying, ‘They’re saying my name! They’re saying my name!’” said her mother, Aisa Sasai. “I thought, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’”
The little girl who shared a name with the Olympic gymnastics champion had only recently picked up a bow and arrow, and a dream was born. Now 17, Sasai is an up-and-coming archer who’s hoping that a little over a year from now, the announcers on television will be talking about Gabi winning gold and it will be about her. She knows that the experience she gains this year could have a big impact on what might happen in 2024.
“This season is very important because there are a lot of trials this year,” she said. “I’m planning to be competing in the youth world championships and the senior world championships, which are linked with the Pan American Games, and also the first stage of Olympic Trials will be this year, so it’s a busy year.
“Performing to the best of my ability at all of those is definitely a short-term goal.”
Sasai was so young when she started competing in archery that for a long time, she was the only one in her age group. It wasn’t until she was 9 or 10 years old, she said, that she began to regularly compete against others her age. By that point, she was already being told by local coaches that she was showing a lot of potential in the sport.
“Somewhere in my little mind, that made me think I could go further with it,” she said. “It felt like I was really supported and that people believed in me.”
On a typical day, Sasai does online school at her home in Seattle from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., then heads to the range for about four hours of practice. On the weekends, she may practice for about five hours, come home, have lunch, then go back out for a quick drill session, she said. Sasai estimates that she shoots about 3,100 arrows per week, and documents many of her practice sessions on Instagram, @gabi365archery.
Sasai, who also lists among her interests hula dancing, playing the flute and saxophone, and drawing, is learning to cope with the positives and negatives that come with being an elite athlete. Part of her mental game, she said, is taking note of the small victories, such as a new personal record in practice or showing improvement against tough competition in tournaments.