"I am my biggest competition," says Collin Klimitchek
Born in Mission Valley – in Victoria County, Texas – Collin Klimitchek has been involved in archery since he was just five years old.
He comes from an outdoors family and his dad was a competitive compound archer in his former years. Following the family tradition and after developing a particular interest in the mental game and body control involved in the sport, the “yes” he gave as a child quickly turned into more than a casual activity.
He’s no longer a child, he’s fully-grown and shoots with the strength of the seniors he’s now accustomed to competing with. If it wasn’t for the fact he stands a head above the rest of the line, he would be difficult to spot on the shooting line now his trademark surfer locks are gone.
Calm, serene and focused, Collin is quite obviously very serious about his archery. He trains full time and trains hard.
“Archery is a very technical sport. When you are on the line and you are shooting, and it comes down to that last arrow, you have to have the perfect mental toughness to be able to shoot that shot.”
Training between eight and nine hours per day in the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center – where he lives now – Collin’s normal day starts before seven in the morning.
He’s on the practice field by eight to do start shooting, individually and team games, before taking lunch and then getting back out on the archery field.
Two years ago, Collin was selected to represent, for the first time ever, the United States – at the 2013 World Youth Championships in Wuxi, China.
Early in 2015, Klimitchek was selected for both the junior and senior USA archery teams – to compete at the Archery World Cups, two world championships (youth and senior) and the Pan American Games held in Toronto in July.
“So far it has been a fantastic year,” he says, and he has the silverware to prove it.
An individual bronze in Antalya, two silvers in Yankton – individual and team – and a team silver at the Pan Americans made up Collin’s medal haul for 2015 heading to the worlds.
Midway through Copenhagen, he’s added another accomplishment to that list. During team eliminations the USA team – Collin with Zach Garrett and Brady Ellison – secured a full men’s quota to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“My third goal for the year – after the Pan Ams and Yankton – would be the Olympics and it’s underway right now,” says Collin. “Hopefully that happens.”
To make an appearance in Rio possible, Collin needs to win his place on the USA team. One year out, the 19-year-old already has his mind on the three trials that will decide that roster.
The first trial is scheduled for September 2015, where the selection will be cut to 16 athletes, the second cuts to eight and the third four – with the top three making the Olympic line-up and the fourth becoming reserve.
“There are at least 10 to 12 guys that are all right there on the top and can make it,” he explains. “This Olympic team is by far going to be most difficult Olympic team to make in my life time – and probably ever!”
In Copenhagen, it’s just Collin, Zach and Brady, though.
Sharing good camaraderie and an excellent on- and off-the-field relationship, Collin says this USA team just works.
“I’m very thankful for my teammates and I have complete trust in both of them.”
Brady, says Collin, is the glue.
“He can hold us all together,” he continues. “He is the most experienced – and probably the most immature at moments – but when we are not happy or not doing well he brings us together.”
There’s nothing juicy for Collin to reveal about the inner workings of this squad, except maybe that Zach, in Klimitchek’s words, “really enjoys hitting the snooze button.”
One thing is certain, during team matches, none of the team was caught napping: Through the first round and quarterfinals, the USA boys dropped a single set.
It was only an angry Korea that stopped their worlds campaign short in the semifinals.
They’ll shoot against Chinese Taipei for recurve men’s team bronze on recurve Sunday in Copenhagen.
Individually, Collin didn’t have such a successful event.
“Challenging,” he says when describing his trip. The 14th seeded recurve man in the event, Klimitchek lost in the first round to 99-ranked Dominik Irrasch from Austria.
Collin puts it down to clearance problems he had with the jacket he was wearing to shield from the wind and rain.
It’s difficult to tell when talking to someone so calm and collected, but getting over not shooting to his own expectations is something Collin says is his biggest challenge.
“I have to work on my mental programme a lot because I am my biggest competition, I guess,” he explains.
“I draw my inspiration from how much I enjoy winning and absolutely hate losing. I never really had an idol to look up to do or that I wanted to be like – at least not in archery – so my motivation comes from wanting to win and be the best.”
At the World Archery Youth Championships in Yankton, Collin lost the gold medal match to Korean Min Byeongyeon.
“My coach said to me: ‘Your time will come, but it’s not time yet. Just keep driving’,” he recalls. His frustration was born from extremely high expectations.
“When you are on top, everyone expects you to win, you expect to win, and that’s something that I have felt as a junior. Shooting with the seniors – no one expects me to win but if I do it’s just more experience for me before the Olympics.”
If nothing else, Collin learned from that experience in Yankton – and says he tried to arrive at the senior worlds with no expectation.
“I try not to go to tournaments with any expectation on how I will place, but how I performed was not as high as the expectation in my mind,” he says.
Through the rocky patches that such pressure might bring, Collin has kept true to one principle. Working hard, even when he really did not want to.
“There’s been a couple of times where I wanted to quit and I event thought I had quit – a few times. I just forced myself to re-evaluate and think over all my accomplishments,” says Collin.
He focuses on what it’s going to take to get him where he wants to be.
“Like my coach says: no pain, no gain,” explains Collin. “It just takes a lot of hard work.”
That preparation done back in Chula Vista, Collin takes a different mindset with him to his chance at a world bronze medal with his teammate on Sunday.
“I know that next Sunday, whether we win or not, we are going to do great,” he says. “We are going to shoot the best we can. So far, this tournament has been a great world championships.”