HANAHAN — Michael Quayle wiggles his feet to gain a firm, comfortable stance. He lifts his bow and takes aim at a target three-fourths of a football field away. Quayle pulls back until he hears a distinctive click, assuring him he has pulled the string back with exactly 48½ pounds of pressure. Exhaling, he releases the string and the arrow rockets away at almost 140 mph, hopefully finding a spot in the grapefruit-sized center of the paper target.
Multiply that 300 times each day and you have the training regimen of Quayle, who hopes to make the U.S. Olympic archery team for the 2012 Olympics. Competing in College Station, Texas, Quayle recently earned one of 16 available spots on the Shadow Team for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The next qualifying stage is set for April in Chula Vista, Calif., with four archers (three plus one alternate) advancing to compete in the
London Olympics next August.
“I’m good enough to make the Olympic team and I’m good enough to go to the Olympics. It’s such a fine line when you get to the top three or four percent of the people performing, you have to have everything in synch,” Quayle, 36, said.
Quayle grew up in a small, no-stoplight town in Illinois. He took up bow hunting for deer when he was 15 years old. One of his best friends was also into archery on a competitive level, and Quayle began driving him to practices. During one of those practices, Quayle picked up his friend’s recurve bow and tried his hand. The results were amazing. His friend said Quayle had done in five minutes what it had taken him six months to accomplish.
“We started traveling all over the Midwest shooting tournaments. By the end of that year, I think I finished ranked third as a junior. Of the top four or five juniors, I’m the only one out of that group that doesn’t have an Olympic medal,” Quayle said.
When Quayle finished high school, he decided to enlist in the Navy. He didn’t touch a bow for almost 10 years until he returned to shore duty at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station.
“At the end of 2001, 2002, I picked it up again and I’ve been shooting pretty consistent ever since,” he said.
Quayle now lives in Hanahan with his wife, Dr. Nancey Tsai, an assistant professor at MUSC. On their first date, he took her to The Archery Shop in Summerville to shoot at their indoor range. At the time, she didn’t know about his passion for archery.
She was stunned when he told her, “I’m actually pretty good at this.” Quayle was trying to earn a spot on the 2004 Olympic team at the time.
“I was ranked fairly high that year and having a good year. I was shooting really well. I was smoking all those guys, then six or seven weeks before the Olympic trials the bow I had been shooting for almost two years, the limb failed. I lost 20 points off my practice score. I placed third at nationals that year, but it was too late,” Quayle said.
Four years later, his shooting was off when the Olympic
trials rolled around and he missed again.
“Olympic trials in the past seem to be my Achilles’ heel,” he said.
Quayle has never lost his passion for bow hunting, and a couple of years ago it almost cost him his life when he took a 25-foot tumble from a tree stand.
“I said, ‘This is going to hurt,’ and I think I called myself a bad name. After I hit the ground, I looked at my toes, wiggled my feet and I praised the Lord. My feet worked,” Quayle said.
He suffered fractured ribs, a broken hip and other injuries. He continues to hunt, but now he straps on his safety harness as soon as he walks up to a tree.
‘He could make it’
Quayle, who trains full-time in his sport, has been working for more than a year with former Olympic archery coach Dick Tone of Arizona. The two see each other regularly and also work via video. Tone said he thinks Quayle should make it through the next stage.
“Archery is like any other sport. If you have the physical talent and mental ability to perform at the highest level, it takes hours and hours and hours of repetition,” Tone said.
“He’s a good one. He could make it.”