Rick McKinney, 67, Gilbert, Arizona
When Rick McKinney began with archery, he was told he should choose another sport. “I was all thumbs and clumsy,” he admits. “But man, there was nothing like it and a lot of fun!”
It’s a good thing Rick pushed on or he wouldn’t have given us one of the most impressive careers for an American archer, notably four Olympic appearances that produced two Silver Medals- an individual in 1984 and a team medal in 1988. He has also set several records, won 37 national championships, and earned three individual titles and contributed to five consecutive team titles at the World Archery Championships between 1975 and 1995. He was also named 1983 U.S. Olympian Male Sportsman of the Year, the only archer to receive the award.
The list goes on, including the Gold he earned at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. It’s rare to see an Olympian compete as a senior athlete, but Rick has the right perspective. “I don’t look at it as me being different than everybody else,” he explains. “I’ve always loved shooting the bow and arrow, but it’s a different approach now. I’m still competitive and execute as good of a shot as I can, but I’m there to have fun. I know I’ll never be as good as I was, but that’s not the point. I strive for that perfect shot, and don’t get it as often as I used to. But when I do, it feels so good.”
Rick knows how it feels to have a nemesis. In his prime it was American teammate Darrell Pace, who often edged him off the top perch. “He was a paradox to me – I couldn’t tell if I loved to hate him or hated to love him, because he was so good,” he says. “But we both say, ‘That person is the reason why I was as good as I was.’”
The Recurve bow master has given back to his sport, authoring two acclaimed archery books, coaching at college and youth level, and twice providing commentary for NBC’s Olympic Archery coverage. As a volunteer he has served on committees and boards with the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee and with USA Archery.
Rick has also impacted archery technology, starting his own Carbon Tech Arrows manufacturing company that he runs in Arizona. “Some companies only improve where they can make money; I wanted to improve it for the archer,” he says. “With my experience in arrows, I know what the archers and bow hunters want. We were the first to make different wall thickness and weights of carbon arrows.”
He currently works with two Junior Olympic programs and also teaches adults in the area. “I try to find ways to improve training, like bringing books for the kids to read, teaching them how to set goals and all the little things that you normally don’t learn until later,” he says. “I’m more of a life coach than an archery coach. I want them to learn more about themselves so that even if they don’t continue, they have a good foundation to enhance their ability in anything else they want to do.”
Youth interest in archery has increased from the success of The Hunger Games movie series, he notes.
“It’s phenomenal. We’ve grown exponentially, and a lot of the growth came in the girl’s programs,” he says. “The Junior Olympic program I work with now is 80% girls. It was a huge shot in the arm.”
For Rick, Senior Games is a refreshing experience. “They are about a lifestyle change for many people. It helps them live longer and make better goals in life instead of withering away,” he observes. “I meet a lot of new people in archery there. A lot of them don’t even know me. I’m not a braggard and I keep it low key, so it’s fun when they eventually find out. We’re all shooting together and having a good time more than thinking about winning.
“I’ve done this for my whole life because it’s fun,” he concludes. “I believe you should do what you love to do. Unfortunately, it has sped up my life – it’s gone by so fast because I’m having so much fun!”