COLFAX — It is the dream of every athlete to someday represent their country at the Olympic games.
Most Olympians, like gold medallist gymnast Simone Biles, dedicate their childhoods mastering their event. Two years ago, one father from Newton made it his goal to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“Realistically, I set a goal really high in the beginning. Once I felt that I had the niche for it, it was go big or go home,” 38-year-old Randy Brooks said. “At the time, I had six years before the next Olympic year. I knew I was willing to pour everything into it. I’m shooting for the moon.”
Although Randy has loved pulling the string of his bow since he was 8 years old, the Olympic hopeful said he only recently began learning recurve bow target shooting, the event he plans to compete in during the U.S. Archery Team qualifiers in 2019.
“Once I got old enough, I (became) self-taught. I have never had a coach. YouTube has been a blessing,” he said. “I have learned a lot of form things on YouTube. I do a lot of self video, and go back and watch my performance in slow motion and pick out things I need to work on.”
Despite his lack of experience competing with the recurve bow, the Newton resident has been making a name for himself in the archery world.
“As far as I know, I think I am the only one from Iowa in the top 100 or better (in my event in the NFAA Vegas Shoot),” he said.
Last weekend, the father of three tested his skills in Las Vegas against 385 archers from around the globe. The Olympic hopeful placed 27th overall in his event.
“I would call it my passion, but my wife would call it my obsession,” Randy said. “I shoot close to a thousand arrows a week. The only higher arrow count is going to be actual Olympians who are training. They will shoot 300 to 400 arrows a day. I have a wife and children, and I don’t have the time for that. I try to shoot at least, at the very minimum, 100 arrows a day just to keep my muscle memory and form.”
In order to get the amount of practice required to keep him in Olympic shape, the 38-year-old would have to get creative, and like any professional athlete, he needed a lot of support from his family.
“This is one of the aspects that kind of gets my wife. I shoot inside in the house,” he said. “I’ll shoot down the hallway or into one of the bedrooms. I put up the baby gates and they are like, ‘Oh the baby gates are up, dad is shooting.’ It seems kind of funny and way out there for some people, but for me, I could get 30 or 50 arrows in while supper is being done or when the kids are taking showers.”
According to Randy’s wife, Shaphen Brooks, Randy has been balancing family, work and his Olympic dream extremely well. From spending quality time with his children at the Quarry Springs Archery Range in Colfax, to finding sponsors to help relieve the financial burden that comes with competing in this sport, Shaphen said Randy has found a way to pursue his dream without harming the well-being of his family.
“It is hard. Thankfully, the kids enjoy the time, whether it is indoors or outdoors at the practice range,” she said. “Even if we don’t ever make it to Tokyo in 2020, the lifelong lessons and the lifelong commitments to each other over the next three years will only get stronger.”
Shaphen said her husband’s dream of competing in the Olympics has actually brought her family closer together.
“The thing I like when I come with my dad when he shoots is when I shoot with him,” Randy’s 7-year-old son, Blaine said.
Blaine and his siblings, 13-year-old MaKenna and 11-year-old Jadin, learned how to shoot a bow from their father. According to Shaphen, the kids have been inspired ever since their dad made it his goal to compete in the Olympic games.
“My oldest thinks it is pretty neat. She says ‘My dad talks about how in my junior year in high school, we might be able to go to Tokyo,’” Shaphen said. “I don’t think my middle one will ever stop talking about the dream.”
For the family, they just hope that Randy never gives up on his dream, no matter how difficult it may be down the road.
“I like to watch him and see what place he gets,” Blaine said. “I feel really happy because sometimes when he shoots in competition he gets first place.”
Before competition in the tournament in Las Vegas, Randy placed in the top five in all the tournaments he participated in the last two years. The competitions included the MSAA State Tournament, the ISSA Pro Am Archery Tournament and the ISSA State Target Tournament.
“For coming out of the gate and being a newbie, and placing in the top five, the next few years are going to be really critical, but I’m getting there,” Randy said.
Despite his focus on achieving his own personal dream, Randy also aims to share his knowledge and help young deadeyes achieve theirs.
“I actually got my USA coaching degree. I am level one USA archery coach,” Brooks said. “I love it so much that I even got a coaching degree so I can help other kids and be that coach. If they have that passion and wanted to take it to the next level, the coach accessibility is there.”
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.