By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Blue-eyed, sweet and caring… and deadly accurate with a recurve bow at 18 meters. That’s how you might describe Miranda Wright, an 11-year-old Coleytown Middle School student who has become somewhat of a phenom in the sport of archery. Having placed first in every state championship she entered, she has an excellent shot at representing the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. On a recent rainy weekday at her Hockanum Road home, she shared her tale with Westport News.
“I first started last summer,” she said, sitting at the kitchen table of the family home, which was built by her father, Eric, a contractor. “My dad tried it first, going with a friend to Hall’s Arrow, an indoor shooting range in Manchester, CT. He was really excited about it and thought it would be good for me to try.”
Eric said he got interested in the sport in the summer of 2009. “I was attracted to the Zen of archery,” he said. “It’s one of six Buddha disciplines, which also include ink painting, the art of theater, flower arrangement, tea ceremony and swordsmanship. I thought it would be a good way to get in touch with my body. I love it. It’s relaxing.”
On her first visit, in June 2010, Miranda practiced with a wooden bow her dad rented for her, over a two-hour period. “I really liked it,” she said, “and wanted to learn more.”
Eric bought her a hobby bow – a wooden bow that doesn’t require much adjustment. “I saw right away that she had a natural form, which is really unusual,” he said. “She was a natural.”
Miranda enrolled in classes at Hall’s, where she started shooting from 10 meters. She quickly advanced to 18 meters, which is the indoor archery competitive distance, and has since moved up to 30 meters.
“My first competition, which is known as a warm-up, was Nov. 7, at Hall’s. “In my division, which is called Bowman, for ages 12 and under, I placed 4th,” she said. “I was pretty happy with my performance. My next warm-up was Dec. 10 and I placed 4th again, but there were more competitors.”
Her first major competition was the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Regionals, held over three days this past February in Andover, MA. The event included the Massachusetts Archery Association Annual Indoor State Championship.
“I competed in both and placed first in the Bowman Female Recurve category,” she said. “I was now using a new bow, made of aluminum with carbon compound limbs. It was heavier, but helped with my accuracy.”
Eric said she has since gone on to win six more state competitions, placing first at every one. The events include the New England Indoor Open, Nutmeg State Winter Shootout, New Jersey JOAD Championship, Spring Shootout in Fairfax, VA, and the Ohio JOAD Championship.
“I definitely think this is my thing,” Miranda said, looking ahead to the Olympics. She would be the youngest to compete if she was to make it. Her participation would be based on her competition scores to date, which are documented by U.S.A. Archery, the organization that runs JOAD and fields the U.S. Olympic Team.
On July 7, Miranda will compete in Sacramento, CA, at the JOAD Nationals. If she was 16, winning that would be significant as she would be eligible to go on to a world competition and the 2012 Olympics. The more critical period will be when she turns 16, in August 2015, and competes in the matches that lead up to the 2016 Games.
Eric said there’s a big difference between how archery is supported in the U.S. and other areas, like Asia. “In South Korea, kids Miranda’s age are entered into the state’s archery program and they are intensively trained for Olympic competition,” he said. “And every Olympic Games, they almost always place 1, 2, 3. Here in the U.S., there’s no such preparation or involvement. You’re really on your own in this sport here.”
Currently, Amanda practices an hour-and-a-half three days a week, has physical training with Fairfielder Tracy Bloom two days a week and has a JOAD class on Saturdays.
Sitting in for the interview, Bloom explained how the personal training she provides has application. “Archery requires an upper body and core strength focus,” she said. We strengthen her to perform better but also to prevent injury. I have her do exercises to build her strength, balance and coordination, zeroing in on shoulders, back, wrists and torso. Miranda is very focused and dedicated. She likes to push herself. She’s a true athlete.”
Despite all the hard work, Eric said it will not be an easy path to a world stage. “She’s shooting a lot arrows and getting her body in shape, but it’s extremely involved to prep for world competition,” Eric said. “In South Korea, there’s more adoption of athletes earlier on. It will take great dedication on our and Miranda’s part to meet the challenge.”
With a twinkle in her eye, Miranda said, “It’s fun to watch the South Koreans compete and I hope to go up against them one day.”
Eric added, “This country prizes individual effort. We’re going to give it the old college try.”