When Lindsay Pian released her first arrow at a Girl Scout camp’s archery field eight years ago, her talent for the unconventional sport became immediately apparent.
“I think I did hit it,” she said, recalling her first try at the target. “It was scary, surprisingly well.”
Today, a wall of archery medals from state, national and international competitions lines a hallway in the Pian family’s Scottsdale home, and this 20-year-old is vying for a chance to compete at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
A Scottsdale native, Pian began participating in junior competitions in the U.S. and Europe when she was just 15.
She graduated from Chaparral High School in 2005 and accepted an academic scholarship to Arizona State University, where she studies mathematics.
After Pian completed her freshman year, U.S.A. Archery head coach Kisik Lee invited her to join his team at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., so she put school on hold to take her shot at Olympic glory. A rigorous training schedule with frequent competitions in Europe, Asia and South America has temporarily replaced her classes and textbooks.
But at this point in her career, Pian wouldn’t have it any other way.
“What keeps me going is knowing my competition halfway around the world is training,” she said. “While I’m eating lunch, they’re training. I want to keep right there with them.”
Pian returned to Scottsdale on Monday after a whirlwind few weeks of international competitions — with several new medals to add to her collection.
In July, the U.S. Women’s Archery Team won a bronze medal at the Pan American Games, a multisport tournament among all of the nations of the Americas, hosted this summer by Brazil.
In her first appearance at those games, Pian was the most consistent shooter in the bronze medal match, according to Coach Lee.
Pian, the youngest member of the three-person team, said she prepares for major competitions like the Pan Am Games by remaining calm and training hard.
“I don’t try to psych myself out for it,” she said. “I try not to get surprised by the weather or the competition. I try to prepare for anything that comes my way.”
Her return to the states meant immediately heading to Colorado to compete in the U.S. Nationals tournament. Pian won silver medals in both the national and international portions of that competition.
Now she is focusing on the intense, three-step Olympic trials process that will determine the one, two or three female archers who will represent the U.S. in Beijing next August.
“She wants to see how far this Olympic try goes,” said Pian’s father, Bob, who judges international archery competitions. Pian’s mother, Janice Price, is a tournament administrator for the Phoenix-based archery competition, the Arizona Cup.
Both became involved in archery after their daughter showed unusual natural talent in the sport, Bob Pian said.
“When she first started, we assumed everyone shot like that,” he said. “There are some people who are afraid to win. Lindsay is not afraid to win.”
Pian intends to return to ASU as soon as her athletic career will allow for it. If she makes the 2008 Olympic team, she may re-enroll in January 2009. If she does not, she could return to school as early as next spring.
After graduation, Pian said she might want to teach high school or college mathematics.