The young women flying the flag for the USA – and their Latin heritage

Jennifer Mucino picked up her first-ever stage gold on the Hyundai Archery World Cup last month, winning the mixed team event with Brady Ellison.

The dramatic final against Korea finished in a shoot-off, Mucino trusted to deliver the winning nine to defeat Kim Woojin and Lim Sihyeon.

It’s yet another US medal made possible by a resurgent recurve women’s line-up.

Mucino is one-third of that line-up, world championship runner-up Casey Kaufhold another key element – and Catalina Gnoriega the final piece for 2023.

Kaufhold is 19.

Mucino and Gnoriega are 20 – and the similarities don’t stop there.

The pair represent the cultural diversity of the (particularly southern) US, both having Latino – Mexican – heritage, now finally represented on the country’s international archery squad.

Gnoriega, currently ranked 38th in the world, was born in San Diego but grew up over the border in Mexicali – the home of her mother’s family.

She started shooting there at the age of 12. Catalina then began training at the Chula Vista training centre, not far from San Diego in California and right on the border between the two countries, which is where she eventually received an invitation to join the US team resident athlete programme.

“Chula Vista is a great opportunity for a lot of people that maybe don't have the resources to train to their fullest extent at home,” she said last month in Medellin.

“I got invited to try out… I didn't really have a coach back at home and I wanted to advance because at that point I feel I was a little stuck and I was just looking for something different and new.”

Gnoriega made her international debut back in 2019, acted as the reserve for the last Olympic team in 2021 – and shot her first full year on the squad last season.

Jennifer, on the other hand, was born and grew up just outside of Mexico City. She started shooting when she was nine years old, having tried some other sports in pursuit of one future.

“Since I was little, I always had the Olympic dream,” she said.

She was seven when she first started telling her parents she wanted to be an Olympian.

It’s a dream she achieved at Tokyo 2020 as a surprise member of the US squad – alongside Kaufhold and Mackenzie Brown – that qualified at the final opportunity in Paris in 2021.

Once in Tokyo, the recurve women’s team made it as far as the quarterfinals, while Mucino recorded a second-round finish individually.

Before wearing a US uniform, Jennifer trained at the Mexican high-performance centre in the country’s capital. Born in Boston, her family decided to relocate to the US ahead of the world youth championships in 2019.

This is the most promising US recurve women’s team in a long time.

And the country south of the border, with which two of them share such a strong connection, has become something of a force in the category over the last decade
Why not make the most of that associated talent?

“The US is a very diverse country. There’s a ton of different kinds of people and I think representation can inspire a lot of younger Latinos or any other US minority,” said Gnoriega.

“For any minority, it’s always good to have representation.”

Flying the flag for the US – and for their heritage – Mucino and Gnoriega can count on more support than most when they take to the field for next month’s Hyundai World Archery Championships, the primary qualifier for Paris 2024.

“Our focus is to take a full team to Olympics again and hopefully bring medals back home,” said Mucino. “This is going to be a really hard process, but I think everyone in the team can do it.”

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