USA Archery’s Zach Garrett was 4 years old the first time he picked up a bow and arrow. His grandfather, who was a hunter, taught him how to shoot. “I was just having fun in the backyard,” says Garrett, who grew up in Wellington, Missouri, a rural town of 800 people located 40 miles east of Kansas City.
By 14, Garrett was shooting a recurve bow (the same style sported by Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”) at a 4-H fair. By then, he knew about the Olympics, but still didn’t know how to get there—until fate intervened.
During a family trip, Garrett, who also ran track and played baseball in high school, met Steve Cornell, owner of an archery shop three hours away in Springfield, Missouri. Cornell began coaching Garrett, who would visit him a couple of weekends per month, coupled with Skype coaching calls.
Then came his big move. After graduating from Wellington-Napoleon High in 2013, Garrett headed to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, to see if he could make the team. College is not typically on the path for Olympic archers because few schools have strong programs (Texas A&M and Columbia University are exceptions).
“It’s not like being a track athlete who has a well-set up collegiate program,” says Garrett. “If you want to go to the Olympics, you’re better off going to a training center.”