Bow caught up with the Olympic silver medallist who is currently tearing up the indoor circuit
Gabriela Schloesser (née Bayardo) is a Dutch recurve archer. Born in Mexico, she competed for Mexico before 2016, and has represented the Netherlands since 2017 after marrying the Dutch compound international Mike Schloesser. In 2019 she became the first Dutch recurve woman to win an Olympic spot since 1996 and went on to win an Olympic silver medal in the mixed team event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Steve Wijler.
At the end of 2022, she went on a tear around the indoor circuit, winning the Kings of Archery event in the Netherlands, the GT Open in Luxembourg and the Taiwan Indoor Open – despite not really having much history with indoor competition.
As she says: “Every year is a new challenge, and last year the challenge was to replicate what I can do in practice in competition. Sometimes we try too hard to be better than we can be, but when we know we have a certain level, and we can replicate that, it just becomes natural.”
It’s a busy schedule for you in January, I’m guessing?
We’re doing Nimes, Lancaster and Las Vegas. It’s three competitions for three weekends in a row. I’m feeling a lot better about indoor than I used to, yeah [laughs]. In Mexico we didn’t really shoot indoors. Since I moved to the Netherlands, I started shooting indoor because we weren’t able to shoot outside in the winter. Well, we can, but it’s cold!
The first year I did indoor I podiumed once or twice. I knew I had potential but thought, “What do I need to do to win?” So we went to Kings of Archery and I began my qualification. I started really badly. You obviously do everything in preparation for you to be really good in the competition and to perform your best. If you make a silly mistake, it feels like you didn’t prepare yourself as well as you could.
I thought, “OK, just accept that you started badly.” There’s not much you can do to fix it. You have to accept that you can do well and also that you can do badly. That was important; if things go wrong, just be accepting. It gives me a little bit more security to try to do the same always – not try to be ‘better’ but try to use what I have and do it at that moment. I think probably what I have this year is a little bit more determination.
Have you been tempted to try some fat arrows indoors or change anything else?
I have tried some bigger arrows. I shot with the X7s. As a woman, not all of us have a really long draw length. I think bigger arrows help you if you have a longer draw length, but if you have a short draw length like me – I shoot like 27½ – in my case, it didn’t work out. I like testing stuff to see what’s up but for me personally didn’t work out.
I don’t change the stabilisation. It is mostly the same as last year. When I was in Mexico we used to train a lot; a session in the morning, a session in the afternoon. It was a pretty basic setup with a flat V-bar.
It would be very much about feeling and less about aiming. Now I feel you get a little bit of advantage if you have your rear weight a little bit down and if you set up your stabilisers so that you move less. I did try shooting with a flat stabiliser position at the end of last season but it didn’t work and I felt I moved a little more.
How do you stay calm between ends?
In the indoors I need to focus more than the outdoors. I think what gives me a little bit of focus on the game is just scoring my arrows. I sometime try to read a little bit. I can get really nervous and I’m trying to find something else to do other than being on my phone.
I’ve been trying to use my phone at lot less in general because I feel like it consumes a lot of my energy. So I’ve been leaving my phone in the in the hotel, or giving it to Mike or someone I trust, so that I can just focus on what I’m doing. In training, my routine right now is just a scoring every single arrow on paper.
I do use some of the scoring apps, but that’s a little bit more when I want to test my set-up. I think that in a competition sometimes having an iPad or a phone or whatever can take a lot of energy from you, so that doesn’t work for me.
I write down my scores on a regular paper scorecard and add them up. If I’m feeling really nervous, I just try to write down a couple of times what my process is. I say it to myself, and I write it down, so I remember it. Sometimes I remember my ‘old’ process, and try not to mix it up with the new process [laughs].
For the indoor stuff, it’s always Mike and me together. It’s not always that way at the World Cups. The biggest difference is that we didn’t know what to expect because we hadn’t been before. We knew some of the archers, but we didn’t really talk to them because everyone has these little groups.
Although, sometimes it is really nice just to go somewhere else where nobody knows you. But everyone was also super, super fun, and we actually got to meet some of the Taipei archers this time, and they bought us some bubble tea. So it’s more about new friends this time.
When will you be back on the Dutch national team?
After the outdoor season ends, we’re ‘free’. Normally I just train at home. In February I’m joining them; they’re going to do a training camp in South Africa. From February on it’s mandatory to train together. We’re looking to prepare for the European Games.
Everyone is really open to working as a team. This team we have right now seems to work together really well. So I’m really looking forward to the new season, even if right now I’m kind of the oldest one on the team. When I was in Mexico it was the other way around, I was always one of the younger ones. But I feel like it’s going to be a good season.
How long will you be a a professional archer?
My plan is to switch to compound at some point, but I don’t know if it’ll be sooner rather than later. It’s kind of funny, because after the Olympics I was really excited because I’d finally made my dream come
true. And the first question that people asked me when I came back was, “Are you quitting?” [laughs]. And I thought, “Why should I quit if I’m having the best time of my life?” I don’t think people did it because they wanted me to quit, they just wanted to know what my next step was.
When I moved to the Netherlands I didn’t even know if I was going to go to Tokyo. I was always aiming for Paris, and then I got to go to Tokyo and that changed my life. When Steve and I won the medal, I believed I could do better. So I didn’t even think about quitting.
But I would like to have a family. I’m now finishing my bachelor’s degree that I’ve stuck with for four years. I’m still learning Dutch. I’m doing a lot more things right now. I feel like these things are ultimately complementary to my archery; I can do things that are more fun and the things that are actually going to help me after my ‘archery life’. But I hope I can get to the next Olympics and maybe the one after that, too.
I hope compound gets in the Olympics as well because that would be really cool, that would be a big win for Mike and for me. But at the same time, I know I could do this for a long time. I know I want to do other things, like family, but I think that I can do that at the same time. Archery is my passion, but it has also became a job and I don’t want to be unemployed!