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A One-Year Delay Of The Tokyo Games Could Work In Favor Of This Missouri Olympian

Greg Echlin
Wellington, Missouri-native Zach Garrett took a break from competition after winning silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but he has his aim on gold in 2021.

Zach Garrett, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist in archery, is one of a handful of athletes in the Kansas City metro affected by the postponement of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo until 2021. But it has also affected others in Kansas City who participate in and follow archery.

Garrett, who hails from Wellington, Missouri, just east of Kansas City, has been training in southern California under the tutelage of USA Archery’s national team coach, Kisik Lee.

Though he’s disappointed by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to postpone the games, Garrett said he understands why.

“I feel like your dreams are being postponed. However, I think that this is the only decision that was reasonable to make,” he said.

Credit Greg Echlin / KCUR
Garrett has been training in southern California but returned home to Kansas City last Thanksgiving and did target practice in Independence.

Garrett was rounding into Olympic-caliber form in recent months while training in California, but last year marked his first full year of competition since the 2016 games in Rio, and he said a little extra time for next year will benefit him.

“That extra year is going to give me even more (of an) opportunity to prepare and I feel very confident that I’ll be even better at that point,” said Garrett, who turns 25 on April 8.

While competing last year with the intent of making his return to the USA national team, Garrett also dabbled in coaching.

“I think at my peak I had about 20 students,” he said.

Through a referral from Lee, his Olympic team coach, Garrett started working with the Lee’s Summit brother-sister combination of Cara and Ethan Cha. Cara, 16, is also interested in coaching as well as competing in archery. She has a Level One coaching degree through USA Archery.

She said she sees Garrett through different lenses when observing him in competition — from both a competitor’s and a coach’s view.

“I can see from a coach’s point of view how it feels to coach someone just like he is able to coach me,” said Cha. “So I’m able to work on myself, and also see what he wants me to become.”

Cha said she hopes to emulate what she calls Garrett’s graceful form on the archery range.

In particular, she said she notices how Garrett handles the recurve bow, a type of bow seen in “The Hunger Games” movies that were popular when Cara Cha was in elementary school.

Credit Steve Nitta
Cara Cha of Lee's Summit not only is a talented archer, she also plays viola and the pipe organ.

“I want to be able to achieve that, so being able to visualize it is one thing,” she said. “But actually being able to go see it, see the scores that it results in and see the confidence in his shots is something that piques my interest.”

But there’s a lot that interests Cha besides archery.

As an accomplished viola player, she has performed at Carnegie Hall and the famous opera house in Sydney, Australia. In addition to all that, she plays the pipe organ at her church and serves as choral director.

“Ever since I was young, I’ve always been doing something,” she said. “I’ve always been busy. If I have free time, then it was considered weird.”

Cha said she was around 7 when she first became interested in archery, but hasn’t entered serious competition until the last two years.

“When I started, I honestly didn’t think that getting very far would be possible just because of how much later I had started,” said Cha. “But I knew that I wanted to get as far as I could in the time that I could.”

For the immediate future, Cha sympathizes with her archery friends who wanted to compete at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. But for the multi-talented Cha, the Olympics are now not her highest priority.

The postponement of the Tokyo games, in Garrett’s view, sends an important message.

“I hope people will look at that among all the other things that have been cancelled and postponed, and see that this is a crisis,” he said. “This is something that we should be taking seriously.”

Garrett knows the decision to postpone the game will have a huge impact. But in a sport that requires a precise aim, Garrett is still targeting gold next year.

Greg Echlin reports on sports for KCUR. You can follow him on Twitter @GregEchlin.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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