We spoke to Team USA regular Braden Gellenthien at the beginning of year, and got his predictions on how he thought things were going to turn out. We caught up with him at the end of it to find out if his feelings had been right
We’re early on in 2017, what sort of things have you been reviewing from last year and what are you looking forward to for this year?
Nimes was amazing last year, that was an amazing kick-off for the indoor season, and from there the outdoor season was a bit of a lull, but capped off with a 718 at the Outdoor Nationals and took down the US National Championship. The best part about that is I’ve already made the World Cup team for this year, 2017, and will be representing the US one more time. We just started Iowa Pro-Am 2017 the kick off, and it went pretty well – I ended up third, which is always a disappointment, to get so close to winning and not win, but I actually found myself in a six-way tie for third place and had to have a Vegas-style shoot-off and I came out on top, so that was definitely a big confidence-builder with Vegas only a month and a half away, so it was a good kick-off for the year and I’m excited.
How many years it is you’ve been on the US team?
I made my first World Championships team in 2003, and I’ve never missed a team I’ve tried out for since then so, 14 years.There’s been highs and lows – right now with the TRX 8 and the Halon X I feel like I’m back on a high.
Those are the most recent bows Mathews has brought out – what is it about those bows that’s put you on that high?
Last year was exciting when we had the Halon X come out – it was a crossover between a hunting bow and a target bow and it was cool to feel that ‘pop’ and the power behind the bow. And this year Matt took it one step further and brought a lot of the technologies that we developed with that crossover to the target world, and we were able to lengthen out the Halon X into the Halon X Comp and now it’s a 37-inch bow, which is a lot more stable and a lot more sturdy and it feels a lot more like a target bow. And then, he took the TRGs and turned them into the TRX with the Halon X technologies and it’s an extremely stable platform, that still has the speed of a hunting bow, and that’s really exciting for the outdoor season where I’m gonna be able to aim like I always did with my Conquest 4, but have the speed of a hunting bow. When we’re shooting outside in the wind there’s gonna be a lot less wind drift, and it’s going to be a lot more stable to aim with.
The standards in international compound archery are so high. What is it that gives people that edge to keep pushing towards perfection?
I think as soon as one person achieves something everyone else sees it as something that they can do. When the level was 590, people strove to get to 590, and now the level’s nearing 600 people are practicing a lot harder and they’re finding ways to make their form and their equipment more consistent and repeatable, and I think that’s it; once someone reached the 598 level it became something you had to do to win. So everyone found a way to do it. And now Mikey’s found a way to 600 we’re all going to have to find a way to get there too. And I think that’s what drives it more than anything else – no-one wants to settle for second place. Knowing one guy’s doing it makes us all need to do it.
You’ve said you believed compound archers had ‘surpassed the game’, particularly indoors. If you could influence the way the game changes what would you want to see?
I don’t think the target could get smaller – I know World Archery’s made some steps to shrink the nine-ring, but most of the archers aren’t shooting arrows that far out, all it’s going to do is separate the club level archer from the professional even more. I think the only option would be to maybe bump us back to 25 metres but stay on the 40cm face – I think with a little bit longer distance you may see more eights or more sevens, and it may spread the grouping out just a little bit more, but I think at 18 metres we’ve beaten the game.
Did you have a hand in the new bow developments? How much does Mathews use feedback from pro shooters to take bow design forwards?
I think over the last few years Mathews has definitely opened up to listening to the shooters and finding out what they want, what need to succeed, and this year I think is the culmination of a lot of that so whether it was my suggestions or Bridger’s suggestions or anyone else’s, I think Mathews has been really receptive this year and I think that’s why we’re going to see a really big spike in our performances.
Finally, if you could pass on one bit of advice to someone who’s thinking of trying archery, or who maybe has tried it but is wondering whether to get into it, what would that be?
“Keep archery fun, keep it enjoyable, and if you’re going to go back, bring someone new – make sure that you pass on that fun and enjoyment onto them.”
We caught up with Braden later this year…
Looking back at your 2017 season now, how well did your feelings going into it matched up with what happened?
After the Iowa Pro Am, I felt extremely positive and excited for the upcoming season. Although I trained hard and stayed competitive for the rest of indoors, things didn’t go according to plan. A few unlucky breaks here and there coupled with a 299 29x day one in Vegas had me on the outside looking in at most of the events. Things started to turn around for me at the NFAA indoor nationals where I broke through and shot a 600 120x and finished tied for fourth. I used this placement as a springboard into the outdoor season where I managed another fourth place at our opening event, the Arizona Cup. These close finishes left a fire burning and I went back to the range with more drive than ever. I spent the next few weeks tearing bows apart, rebuilding my shot and testing every arrow combination I could lay my hands on. I settled on the Mathews Halon X Comp and the Easton Protour 380. From this moment on, I felt like I had my edge back and finished the outdoor season with the tenacity and vigor of a much younger me. I finished the season with three podiums at the USAT series (including a win), a third place finish at the World Championships, two podium finishes at the World Cup series and ultimately winning the World Cup Final. Even though the season wasn’t perfect from start to finish, I feel like it definitely matched up with my expectations and has motivated me to continue more of the same into 2018!
How did 2017 compare to all the previous years you’ve been shooting with Team USA? Any particular highlights this year? How did getting your sixth World Cup Finals medal feel?
2017 was one of the best seasons I’ve had with Team USA. We had an incredible team at every World Cup event, won gold at the World Championships, and individually I walked away with two medals at World Cups in addition to the World Cup Final gold. Winning this medal felt amazing and it felt like validation for all the hard work I’ve put in over the last few years. I feel like I’ve been outworking my results during the last few seasons and I think this just might be the turning point I needed to gain some confidence and have a stronger mental game going into future events.
Have you felt the bows have lived up to their early promise? What sort of development do you think will be next?
The 2017 Mathews lineup definitely lived up to expectations. The bows performed flawlessly all season and I feel like Team Mathews won events more consistently than ever before. With the new 2018 target bow already being released, Mathews has shown that new development direction is clearly focused upon the TRX and Halon X Comp technologies. The new TRX 38 combines the speed and aggression of the Halon X Comp coupled with the consistency and smooth aim of the TRX lineups. Mathews has also done a lot of work on the module options on the new bows, providing shooters with the choice between the standard let-off options and also adding the new “Valley mods” which provide a softer back wall and easier shot execution. I’m currently running the standard 75 per cent mods on my Halon X Comp and the 70 per cent Valley mods on my TRX 38.
What about your own record of World Cup Finals – that’s six appearances and six medals. Do you see people looking at that as a standard to try and beat?
My record at the World Cup Final is something that I’m extremely proud of. I’m sure that others find inspiration and motivation from it. I feel like having this level of success at these major events is indicative of the training and mental approach that I have. So yes, while I’m sure that others see that I have six silver or better medals at the World Cup Finals in six visits, I also find a lot of self-motivation to continue working hard and hopefully add to those successes.
Is changing the game indoors something you still feel is required?
Yes, I still feel that the current level of compound archery has surpassed the level of difficulty of our game. When you have archers consistently nearing perfection over 60 arrows, matches scoring at 15 arrows, and equipment technologies getting better each season – we’re forced to accept the fact that something needs to change. Golf courses get longer each and every year to combat this and I think it’s time we follow suit in archery. I feel that the current indoor game on the new proposed WA target at 25m would be one heck of a start!
How would you rate the year overall for Team Mathews? What’s been the biggest success you guys have seen as a set of pro-staff shooters? Did it match your expectations?
Mathews Archery had one of their best years yet. I think this is attributable to several things. First, the work that Matt McPherson and our engineering staff do to create the best bows on the market is second to none. Without their knowledge and effort, none of this would be possible. Second, the staff that Derek Phillips has made is a total powerhouse. We have the best shooters in the world on our team in every field of archery – and at every age too! Finally, the shooters themselves. Our team is full of shooters who love to compete, love to win, and love to work hard. This is evidenced by our successes. I feel that our greatest success as a pro-staff is the way we motivate and support each other. We’re all invested in our success so anytime someone finds a trick, hack, or new idea, we share it, test it, and help the team improve. This type of friendship in the working environment is what I would say is our best success and the results of our season totally match the effort that we put in.