Teen competes in world archery championship (video)
Justin Dixon, 16-year-old archer from Fordtran, became nervous when he heard his name announced over the loudspeaker in the Wuxi Sports Centre Stadium in Wuxi, China.
"It began to sink in. We were one of the best four archery teams in the world," Justin said. "Representing my country was the best time of my whole life."
In October, Justin competed as a member of the U.S. three-man compound junior men's team in the 2013 World Archery Youth Championship.
In full draw, Justin peered through the five-power sight on his compound bow during the final rounds. Three television cameras within a foot of his face scrutinized his every expression.
From the shooting line, he released his arrow at the 80-centimeter target 50 meters down the lane. He watched his shots as they replayed on the Jumbotron.
"At that distance, the target is the size of a baseball, the wind is blowing, and there is no room for error," said Tom Barker, Justin's archery coach and co-director of the Straight Arrow Archery Learning Center in Victoria.
With his mother, Tammi Dixon, and his grandmother, Linda Meitzen, of Yoakum, Justin traveled more than 7,000 miles to represent the United States.
To make it to the finals, the U.S. team competed with teams from 53 nations. Justin and his teammates shot 72 arrows each, and their combined scores put the U.S. in third place.
In the finals with the top eight teams competing, each team member shot two arrows in five two-minute rounds, alternating turns.
Mexico beat the United States for third place by one point in the elimination round. Turkey won first place, and Canada placed second.
Overall, after combining the compound bow and recurve bow events, the United States placed second. The compound teams, including men's and women's junior and cadet divisions, won eight of the nine U.S. medals.
When Justin did not make the world championship team in 2012, he concentrated on 2013.
"The fact is, he set his sights and worked hard to make it," Meitzen said. "That speaks for his integrity. He's a well-balanced young man with good ideals."
For one year, the teenager practiced at the range outside his country home four hours a day. He met with his coaches, Tom Barker and Gene Kacir, when he needed to work on specific issues.
Justin is among six of about 350 archers to achieve Gold Olympian status in the Junior Olympic Archery Development program since 2009, said Barker.
"It's exciting to be in the top 1 percent in the world," Justin said. "I feel my hard work has finally paid off, and it makes me want to work harder."
To qualify as a Gold Olympian, Justin had to shoot 290 of 300 points from 18 meters indoors. Outdoors, he had to shoot 345 of 360 points from 70 meters.
"He's shooting at the level of a pro archer," Barker said. "That's nearly perfect."
Young, world-class archers need passion, parental support and access to good coaches, Barker said.
"We had to run Justin off the range," Barker said. "He would practice and practice."
Justin competes in a couple of tournaments each month across the state. He plans to continue competing in world archery championships even though his archery event is not offered in the Olympic Games. He hopes to eventually study wildlife management at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
"Justin is a good archer and a better young man," Barker said. "He'll be successful at whatever he chooses to do."