By Jake Kaminski
I competed for the United States in archery at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. As a professional athlete who uses America’s public lands for both cross-training and relaxation, I left for the games concerned that our lands are under threat from being sold off to state or private interests. I worry that selling off our lands would be a permanent loss not just for elite athletes but all Americans.
I grew up in the Buffalo area, having free rein to explore and enjoy nature, which made a tremendous impression on me as a person and an athlete. When I moved to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., I continued to pursue outdoor recreation, including archery, in the Bureau of Land Management’s Otay Mountain Wilderness. Spending time in the wilderness allowed me to find emotional and physical balance as I pursued my dream of competing at the Olympic level.
When I first began training for the Olympics, during my down time my teammates and I would escape the city, taking targets and bows into the wilderness to reconnect with our sport on a more basic level.
It was revitalizing to go back to shooting in a natural setting and bond with my team outside of the competitive environment of the training facilities. It also helped me rediscover my basic love for archery and reconnect with my childhood memories of spending time outdoors.
Beyond shooting, I enjoy other recreational sports such as dirt biking, ATVing and mountain biking, which helps me cross-train and manage the stress of being a professional athlete. The cross-training I am able to carry out only on our public lands has also played a critical role in my development as an athlete. The abundance of trail systems and protected lands in our country is one of the things that makes me most proud to be an American.
Archery comes down to exactitude and focus; so, cross-training in other sports helps to bring my resting heart rate down. Having this place of internal calm and baseline athleticism that I hone in the wild has helped me reach the highest tier of success in my sport. The ability to control my heart rate and recover quickly are tremendous advantages in archery, especially in high-pressure competitions.
I urge the public to consider the importance of public lands and their positive influence as part of our American heritage. Beyond being places of great natural beauty, they provide spaces for kids to be kids, families to come together, and athletes to grow. I am deeply indebted to the access to protected nature I have enjoyed.
I hope that we can continue to preserve that liberty for future generations and potential Olympians.
Jake Kaminski, of Elma, won a silver medal in team archery at the Rio Olympics. He is a member of Olympians for Public Lands.