Olympic hopeful Jeremiah Cusick has been holding a bow since first wrapping his hand around one as a preschooler.
“I started archery when I was about 3 years old with a fiberglass bow my father gave me,” Cusick said. “He was a bowhunter and I wanted to be able to bowhunt with him when I was older.”
Cusick shot in earnest with a compound bow as a boy, enjoying bowhunting and 3D archery until turning 15. Then something else caught his interest. “I saw Brady [Ellison], Vic [Wunderle] and Butch [Johnson] shooting in the 2008 Olympics, and that inspired me to take up recurve archery,” he said.
That passion for the Olympic Games inspired Cusick to set his sights on making the United States Archery Team. As he focused on his new goal, Cusick became a “resident athlete” at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where he trains full time under U.S. head coach KiSik Lee.
Despite countless months of training and shooting hundreds of thousands of arrows, Cusick didn’t start finding his groove until the 2013 season. “My biggest milestone was this [past] year,” he said. “I had the opportunity to compete in the World Archery Youth Championships. My team and I ended up winning the silver medal in the team event.”
Recalling the match’s excitement, Cusick said: “When we won our semifinal match it was so emotional because all three of us shot our best and worked so hard to get there. Our training paid off, and that will be an experience I forever remember. It really reminded me why I compete in archery.”
Many archers say they hit a plateau when reaching a point in their career where they don’t see big gains. That’s when frustration frequently sets in. Cusick said that while 2012 was all about realizing he had work to do on his archery skills, 2013 was a year of epiphanies.
He opened that season with a bronze medal on the senior podium at the AAE Arizona Cup, and took a second bronze later at the SoCal Showdown, with high finishes for most national events. Cusick is also off to a strong start in 2014. He has clinched a berth to the World Archery Indoor Championships, where he’ll compete for Team USA – a spot he won in a one-arrow shoot-off against an Olympic medalist. Thanks to his cool head under pressure, Cusick will join Olympians Ellison and Wunderle – the very athletes he aspired to emulate in 2008– and hopefully return with hardware of his own.
Thanks to his breakout performance in 2013, Cusick also secured spots on the first two World Cup teams for 2014. “My goal is to perform my best and also learn as much as I can from [the other athletes],” he said. “Leading into the Olympic Trials I want to compete as much as I can to get as much experience as possible.”
When asked what gave him that final push to become a contender for Rio 2016, Cusick recalled helpful advice from his personal coach, Richard Cockerell: “I am not going to become the best from perfecting my technique or equipment, but rather I need to look at myself as an archer on a personal level. I asked myself some questions: Why do I compete? Why do I shoot archery? I shoot because I love archery and all the experiences it has given me. I compete because I love competing and I aspire to be the best in the world, hoping one day to represent the USA at the Olympic Games.
“Confidence, passion and motivation are so key when trying to be great at anything,” Cusick continued. “Those are words I try to live by. I still have a ways to go, but I am very happy with everything archery has brought me, and excited to see where it takes me.”