Two years on from the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018, US archer Trenton Cowles looks back at his time in Argentina, which saw him win individual gold and mixed team bronze, and reveals how his experiences there have helped shape his career since then.
Two years on from the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, how do you reflect on your experiences there?
“That's kind of my happy place, my go-to place. Now, looking back, anytime I find myself having trouble, I kind of just look back at that moment and say, ‘I put in the work then, and this is the result. So, keep putting in the hard work and your future results can be just the same.’ That just helps calm me down and reassures me. It gives me confidence going forward.”
What are some of your favourite memories from your time at the YOG?
“I just remember waking up really early to get the bus to training [laughs]. Also going to the dining hall and just seeing all the countries there. I'm pretty social, so just going and sitting down with other countries, chit-chatting with everyone and just getting to know everyone. And then going to see all the other sports. Archery was one of the last events, so I had time to watch my dorm-mates compete and see some of them win medals too. I got to see fencing, I got to see swimming; I got to see all these other events and that was just exciting for me.”
How did the YOG compare to other events that you'd competed in?
“Just way off the chart. Like the pressure was a lot higher, but the fact that I was there, I kind of was able to relax, and it was just different with all these other sports and, at the Games, it's just such a hyper-speed event that I had to just kind of be in the moment at all times.”
You mentioned feeling a bit of pressure, what were your expectations going in to the YOG?
“Going in, I didn't think I would win. Obviously, I thought we could win gold, but I was realistic with myself and I thought my best chance was in the mixed team event. I knew there was a bunch of strong, strong countries there, but I was willing to put up a fight. After my first qualification round, I was a little shaken up because I qualified in 15th and there were just a lot of top archers who had shot phenomenally. I was like, ‘Wow’ – such a different experience from just winning all the tournaments in America. Now I’m in 15th place, which is right in the middle of the pack, so I had to really not let myself get down and not put pressure on myself about the results, let it just happen. And just going back to my practice routine, I was able to relax, and that gave me a little bit of an edge because of the fact that I was more relaxed. I didn't have as much to lose as someone who was ranked higher.”
After qualifying 15th, you went through the elimination rounds without dropping a set en route to the gold medal. Were you surprised at how well the competition went for you?
“Yes, it's kind of one of my favourite little jokes because I was so in the moment that if you see me after I won my last match, I was just ready for the next match. I did not even realise I had won in that moment because I was just so focused on one area at a time just shooting my shot. I don't know an event where I was in the zone so much to the point where I wasn't thinking about the end result. Even during trials for the event, I was thinking, ‘Oh, I need this many points to make the team,’ but during the Games, I was so in the zone, I didn't even realise that I had won my last match and won gold.”
What was it like when you received your gold medal?
“That was an incredible experience. The whole ceremony was just so elegant. Having to walk up in your medal ceremony uniform and then hearing your national anthem – it's just something that doesn't happen at all your other events. And it made me really appreciate why I was there and all the work I put in.”
You also won bronze in the mixed team event alongside Quinn Reddig of Namibia. What was that experience like?
“That was a super unique experience. I'd never shot with this person before, and we just had to learn to trust each other, and know how much time to give each other, and just really make sure all the vibes were positive, so we were uplifting each other at every chance we could. I feel like that was one of the strongest things; we had a really good connection, and we were able to keep ourselves thinking positively going through each of our matches, and even if we were behind, we wouldn't get down on ourselves and we could rebound.”
Do you think your experiences in Buenos Aires will help you achieve your goals in the future?
“A hundred per cent. My next goal is the Olympic Games Paris 2024. I didn't make the cut for Tokyo 2020, so that's my next goal. And I think just going through the process of the selection, and winning, I have that mental edge in confidence. And then I've got that experience competing against top archers from around the world. And having that international experience just helps give me confidence when going home and competing for the spot again.”
What’s the game plan now for achieving that goal of competing at Paris 2024?
“The game plan is kind of a little shaky now because of the whole COVID-19 situation, but I'm currently at Texas A&M University, and this is where the Olympic trials' first stage is held. So, they have a really nice facility here that I have access to every single day of the week. And I'll still be training while studying, so I'm still getting the same amount of time training that I would before I was at college.”
Looking back now, how important do you think your YOG experience will be for you?
“It was just such a big stepping stone for me; going from my practice to then seeing results on an international stage, seeing that my coach has been able to develop me this far and how I've progressed through this sport from starting from nothing, and now I'm a Youth Olympic champion. I put in all this hard work, and now I have this reward. It means a lot seeing the progress I've made over time.”