Phoenix’s Sara Gebhardt wins archery gold at US Open in Pennsylvania

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the world to shut down in 2020, many people found time to take up a new hobby.

Sara Gebhardt from Phoenix was one of them. She picked up a bow and arrows.

Starting the sport in October 2020, Gebhardt began training at the Papago Archery Association under Coach Kevin Ikegami, a veteran of the sport with over 25 years of archery experience.

Gebhardt saw it as a way to have fun and stay active while raising two young children. But she quickly understood.

Today, after less than two years of training, Gebhardt has already made an impact on the world stage.

She faced archery veteran Fawn Girard at the US Open, hosted last month in Pennsylvania by USA Archery, coming back from a 4-0 deficit to claim gold in a shootout.

“The US Open was only my second tournament,” Gebhardt said. “I first competed in a competition called SoCal Showdown, which was held in the San Diego area. It was my first taste of real competition and that’s when I really got into it. got addicted to archery. I took second place in that competition and as soon as I was done I signed up for the nationals.”

Ikegami said he could never have predicted that Gebhardt would progress so much in the sport in such a short time.

“I don’t think anyone, including her or me, could have predicted that she would go to her first national championships and our only second tournament and end up winning it,” Ikegami said. “The woman she was up against (Fawn Girard) has been there for decades and has multiple national championships and is an icon in the sport. Then Sara comes out of nowhere, no one knows her name, it was a very Cinderella match .”

Barebow Pirate: how Gebhardt competes

Gebhardt, however, is different from other archers as she competes in barebow archery. Olympic archers usually compete in Olympic recurve, in which the bows have a few extra parts.

“First of all, they have a sight, which helps people aim because you can look through the site to see the target. That’s the big deal. There’s a few parts on it just to help stabilize the arc. And there’s something called the clicker. So your draw length is always constant. You pull until the clicker goes and that’s when you release, so it’s the Olympic recurve,” said Gebhardt.

In her case, the bow does not have the extra parts and she is not allowed to use any aid that could help with stabilization and aiming. Gebhardt said barebow archery is the fastest growing form of archery in the United States and is gaining popularity throughout Arizona.

Gebhardt wears an eye patch during competition, earning him the nickname “barebow pirate”.

“When you shoot and stand on the line, you have to close one eye,” Gebhardt said. “For most people it’s not a problem, they just wink. The funny thing is, I thought I was winking all my life every time I saw a cute kid or a little baby, I was winking at them. Turns out I was just frowning my face and looking a little unusual.

“So when I went to the archery range my coach pointed out to me that I couldn’t blink and because I couldn’t blink I had to wear a patch over my left eye, and that’s where people used to joke that I looked like a pirate.”

Arizona attractive for the sport of archery

Ikegami said from what he has observed in the Phoenix area that archery is growing.

“So I think it’s kind of the same phenomenon that a lot of other sports and uses of interests were going through,” Ikegami said. “It’s just that everybody got locked up and locked up and then had to go out and go out and spend their money having some sort of outdoor activity to do. So the hunting boomed. In our club, shooting the arc of competition exploded.”

Arizona has always been a leader in archery, Gebhardt said, with the ability to shoot away year-round to a draw. Arizona also brings name recognition with Olympian Brady Ellison hailing from the state.

Although Gebhardt can’t compete in the Olympics because barebow shooting isn’t offered, she has been invited to compete in the Pan Am Games with Team USA and hopes to continue competing and traveling around the world. foreign.

Globe-Miami's Brady Ellison, multiple Olympic and world championship medalist, is probably Arizona's best-known archer.

“I’m really new to the sport,” Gebhardt said. “I’ve only been shooting since October 2020, and hopefully next year I can start to internationalize and compete.”

Gebhardt hopes his daughter will one day follow in his footsteps and also learn archery.

“I’m sure you hear people say being a mum is a full time job. But then when you added quarantine on top of that it was totally consuming and after about seven months of confinement I realized that I had to carve out at least an hour a week just to get out and do something active and something I could enjoy just for myself,” Gebhardt said.

“I had my first private lesson, within 10 minutes I had a bow in my hand and I was hitting the target. I wasn’t hitting the center or the center of the target, but I was hitting the target So it was a perfect pandemic activity. It was outdoors, it was socially distanced, and it was five minutes from my house.

Earnest A. Martinez