Canadian Archer Kyle Tremblay Triumphs Over Adversity to Clinch Parapan Am Games Bronze
Kyle Tremblay of Deep River, ON has been on quite the journey since returning to competitive archery this year following a challenging few years dealing with an illness. On Wednesday morning in Santiago, Chile, Tremblay, 32, outshot his opponent in a nail-biting shoot-out to secure his first Parapan Am Games bronze medal – just days after securing a quota spot for Canada at the upcoming Paralympic Games in Paris.
Competing against Mexican athlete Victor Sardinia in the men’s compound open bronze medal match, the battle came down to a tiebreaker in the final round – something Tremblay was familiar with after facing a tiebreaker in the semifinals as well. This time, Tremblay hit the bullseye to outscore his opponent 152-151 to win the bronze medal.
“It’s incredible,” said Tremblay the day after the competition. “To go into finals matches is always quite nerve wracking, but it’s how you get better, and you need to go through it to get the experience. The training camp that we had a month before in Mexico was a great simulation for it and I think that had a huge impact on my performance here at the Games and I was able to shoot a pretty good score and win it in the end.”
Tremblay was outshot by Diego Quesada of Costa Rica in the semifinals. Quesada went on to capture the silver medal after losing to American Kevin Polish in the gold medal match.
While having to take his last couple of matches down to a tiebreaker likely wasn’t what Tremblay wanted entering these Games, the mental strength and focus it took to execute his shots during them, is a large part of what he enjoys about the sport that he turned toward following an ATV accident when he was 18.
“I was a pretty well-known athlete in my small town, and I played every sport possible going through school. When I had my accident, everything changed and I didn’t know what I wanted to do for work – I was an auto mechanic before, and I couldn’t do that in a wheelchair, so I decided to put that on hold, and I focussed more on sports to keep my mind off what I had just lost. I tried sledge hockey first because I’d always played more physical sports, but I wanted to round out my abilities and I had never tried a sport that was nearly as mentally challenging as archery.”
Tremblay’s father was into hunting, so he’d been around compound bows and always liked how they worked and how they looked, and because he had space to practice where he lived, archery became the sport that captured his attention. He didn’t see success immediately, but he stuck with it and soon started to move up the ranks – making it to the national team in his first year competing.
“It takes a long time to build up that experience and that mental fortitude so that you don’t start to shake or panic under pressure and to have that confidence in your abilities and in your body that you know exactly what you need to do to prep,” said Tremblay who competed in two World Championships before being forced to step back in 2019 due to complications with his injury. “You’ve also got to have the physical skill of shooting the bow – so it is a bit of both, but it definitely leans more towards the mental side, and that was something I wanted to improve on myself.”
Tremblay’s mechanical ability has also played a role in his success as he builds and maintains his own bows – giving him a competitive advantage over his competitors. “If I’m away at a tournament and if something breaks, or something’s not working right – I need to know how to fix it right then and there and not have to rely on somebody else that’s going to change my equipment. Variables like that could shake your confidence.”
Due to his injury, Tremblay has always had to battle chronic pain – it was trying to help that problem that caused him to have to step back from the sport between 2019 and 2023. During that time, he had some close calls with death, but the mental strength he had developed through sport helped him pull through.
“This year coming back, I had to reset again, and start from scratch and train my way up. It was a little different because I knew I did have the ability inside me to get the scores I had done before, but it still wasn’t easy,” said Tremblay. “It took a lot of dedication and hard work and a lot of training time and figuring out how my body works now, but I was able to put in the time, and the effort, and the training hours, the arrow volume, and now I’m shooting 680s to 690s at home and 680s in tournaments.”
Given that he just returned to competition this year, going to the Paralympic Games in Paris next year might have seemed like a long shot to some, but not to Tremblay.
“My goals are always unrealistic to some, but not to me. Paris was always my goal. That’s what makes a great athlete – they push themselves harder than most people would think. Now that I’ve got this achievement under my belt, it’s given me that hunger to keep going further because now I’m at that next level, and going to the highest level, and I want to be a top competitor at these next Paralympic Games.”
The archery competition at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris will take place from August 29th to September 5th and will feature men’s individual, women’s individual, and mixed team events across three para competition categories – recurve, compound, and W1. Canada has another opportunity to qualify more athletes for Paris at a final qualifier in Dubai, UAE in early 2024.
For full results from the Parapan Am Games, please visit: https://para.results-santiago2023.org/#/discipline/ARC/schedule/daily