How Jackson Mirich swapped video games for Pan Am archery glory
ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT is presented by WIAWIS
Jackson Mirich has come a long way from playing video games in his bedroom.
The 22-year-old first picked up a bow and arrow less than a decade ago after being forced to put down the controller by his mum. In November of this year, he became the Pan American Games Champion.
It was the perfect way for the USA archer to cap off a season of firsts, which saw him ascend to the States’ top senior squad – and make his Hyundai World Archery Championships debut in Berlin.
The breakthrough victory in Santiago marked the end of a journey from the coach to the podium.
“I was super lazy as a kid. I used to just play video games at the time and eventually [my mother] had enough of that and sent me to a summer thing,” he said. “Ever since then, I just kept going.”
The overwhelming schedule of a world-class athlete has seen Mirich take to the road since April.
“I wasn’t really looking at the Pan American Games at the beginning of the year. I was more looking towards our Olympic trials and trying to make the world championship team,” said Mirich.
“I didn’t think it was a very good season until after the Pan American Games, I thought it kind of was a failure, maybe that was just me being too hard on myself.”
Archery is a game of millimetres – and the difference between success and failure can be minute.
“I just did not like the way I performed in the second half of the year, I let myself start doubting myself but thankfully I was able to end it well with the Pan American Games,” said Jackson. He hadn’t made it past the third round of any other international in 2023.
“I am excited to see what next year is going to bring.”
Self-doubt is the oft-mentioned aspect of the mental battle that international archers must overcome. Mirich has been working hard on his mindset and has already seen the benefit of involving sports psychologists.
“I couldn’t do it alone,” he said. “I had a lot of help. It is something I have been working hard on, the mental side of archery and more about having that self-confidence in myself.”
“It finally came together for the Pan American Games and I am really happy that it did.”
Having qualified ninth in Santiago, the 22-year-old delivered some of the best matches of his career, eventually finishing the tournament with a perfect, 30-point set to defeat Matias Grande to gold.
As is the case in archery, the opponent on the field was just as important as the opponent in Mirich’s own mind.
“I had been noticing it ever since I started shooting. I could think about everything really well before I would draw the bow but then right when I hit my anchor point I would suddenly start doubting myself, doubting the shot or where the arrow would go,” he explained.
“It was that doubt that made me struggle to reach the higher levels but as soon as I started working on that with my sports psychologist it really helped my scores a lot.”
The trio were unable to secure a team quota place for next year’s Games in Paris during the world championships this summer but did pick up one men’s ticket due to the results in Santiago.
Full team quotas are available at the Pan Am Championships next April (one), the final team qualifier in June (three) and through the world ranking (two). So Mirich knows there is plenty of work left to do in order to make his Paris 2024 dream a reality.
“I am really excited for the Olympics,” he said. “I really want to just go out there, perform, and do my best. Hopefully, it will be better than other people.”
“Paris is in the back of my mind. I keep reminding myself that it is the main focus next year.”
The main focus it might be, but big results in this sport are built on small successes.
“Once I have that in the back of my mind, I think about all the tournaments I need to do leading up to it. It is more about taking it one tournament at a time and staying in the present.”
After taking gold in Santiago, Mirich insists that there is no reason why he can’t continue to win medals on the international stage.
“I think that [Pan Am Games gold] makes people more aware of me,” he explained. “But I think even on the US scene when I wasn’t one of the top guys, everyone knew I could shoot well head-to-head.”
If nothing else, he proved that much in Chile.
“They knew whenever they came up against me they would have to do their best,” Mirich continued. “I think people already knew I am good at head-to-head and I can get hot for a match.”
“My goal has always been to be the best shooter on the field. When you think of the best shooter or one of the best, I want that to be me.”