On Target

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Archery keeps standout shooter Mary Hamm strong and arrow sleek.

By Gretchen M. Sanders, Photo by Donna Hamm

Forget Robin Hood. Mary Hamm doesn’t miss. The 35-year-old archer has a knack for shooting straight into the bull’s-eye.

Hamm followed her mother, who was a world-class archer, into the sport and has since won multiple individual and team World Archery Championships titles using a compound bow, a bow with pulleys and cables to improve aim and control.

In February, Hamm helped Team USA beat the Russian team in the compound women’s final at the World Archery Indoor Championships in Yankton, S.D. That gold medal, an unexpected and emotional victory, came after Hamm’s nine-year break from the sport.

“I missed competing,” Hamm says. “I love the adrenaline and the people I meet through archery, so I was ready to return.”

Her reputation preceded her comeback. In the early 2000s, Hamm won nearly a dozen collegiate national and world championship titles while at Texas A&M University. At the U.S. Nationals in 2003, she became the first woman in history to score more than 1,400 points on the compound 1440 Round, an important qualification round in tournaments.

Hamm’s achievements throughout her 20-year career make her one of the greatest archers of all time. But she’s not finished yet. This venerable champ, who practices at Double G Archery in Georgetown, Texas, has her eye on her next target: the Olympics. But getting to Tokyo in 2020 for the summer games will require a switch to a more difficult style of archery that employs a recurve bow with a string but no pulleys. Compound archery is not yet an Olympic sport, and few shooters have successfully crossed over.

“I’m taking it slowly,” Hamm says. “It’s a long process to get there, so we’ll see.”

Olympics or not, here’s how this straight shooter keeps hitting the mark.

The a.m.:

“I feed our animals and get the kids to school. Then I gather my lunch and equipment and head to archery practice for several hours.”

The workout:

“I shoot 100 arrows a day four or five days a week. That’s about three hours of shooting. My bow weighs about 8 pounds, which I have to hold up every time I shoot, so it’s pretty heavy. To pull back the bowstrings is a 48-pound draw, and it requires an arm motion that most people never do in other exercises. The best way to build those muscles is to shoot. Free weights can help work stabilizer muscles, but most archers don’t do archery-specific strength workouts. They get stronger from shooting hundreds of arrows.”

The diet:

“We eat plenty of game because my husband and I are both bowhunters. We like to make grilled elk fajitas with fresh veggies. In general, I try not to eat processed food, especially when I’m competing. During archery tournaments, I keep my energy up with celery and peanut butter, cheese and grapes, Kind bars and easy-to-carry high-protein foods. Sometimes I focus so hard in competition, I have to remind myself to eat.”

The gear:

“I own 20 compound bows, seven recurve bows and a bunch of long- bows. For practice and tournaments, I mainly use a Hoyt Pro Comp Elite XL, a compound bow that costs nearly $2,000. I usually keep six Easton arrows in my quiver, and I use a Stinger stabilizer that helps balance the weight of the bow and removes vibration. Archery requires lots of walking and standing, so I like to wear tennis shoes. For practice, I wear jeans and T-shirts, but shorts and skirts work too. I usually wear a sponsor’s shooter jersey in tournaments.”

The motivation:

“I love archery and the opportunities the sport has given me. I’ve traveled the world and met amazing people because of archery. I can’t imagine not doing it. I just love to shoot.”

The mindset:

“Be consistent. Archery is all about consistency. If you stay consistent, you can outshoot your opponent. Focus on one shot at a time and don’t think about the 70 shots coming next. Just stay positive and do your best on that one shot. It’s a good mindset for most things in life.”

The p.m.:

“My time starts once the kids go to bed. That’s when I talk to my husband or do crafts. I cross-stitch, knit, crochet, quilt and sew. It’s how I relax. Recently, I started coloring, which feels like doing something and not doing something at the same time. Evenings are great for working on other aspects of archery. I visualize shots or read books that help me improve my mental game.”

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