Michelle Kroppen sets her target on Olympic glory

Michelle Kroppen of Germany competes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 test event at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field on 14 July 2019 in Tokyo (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Michelle Kroppen of Germany competes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 test event at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field on 14 July 2019 in Tokyo (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

The top 10 German archer's main driving force is the Olympic Games.

German archer Michelle Kroppen has been a well-known name on the international circuit ever since she made her debut in 2013, and she may be on her way to becoming a solid contender for Tokyo 2020.

Last year, the 24-year-old archer became one of the top 10 archers in the world - the only German and European who has been able to break into this elite group.

"It was not my goal to be in the top 10 of the world ranking," she said. "I achieved very good rankings at some of these competitions which ended up in a 10th place in 2019.”

While she seems to downplay her top 10 status, Kroppen was also part of the women’s recurve team that sealed Germany’s full quota for the Olympic Games last year - the first time a German women's team has done so in 20 years.

This full quota gives three German female archers a chance to go to the Games – plus a team – who made their last appearance in Athens 2004.

“It’s one of my proudest moments in archery,” Kroppen told Tokyo 2020.

Michelle Kroppen of Germany celebrates during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field
Michelle Kroppen of Germany celebrates during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

With the German team all set to go to the Games, Kroppen trusts an Olympic medal could be on the horizon for her country.

“Next year we have some internal qualifications to set up the best team members for the Games. If I qualify for Tokyo, we have the aim to get a team medal, because I think with the team we can definitely compete with the best.”

If Kroppen gets a spot on the Olympic women’s team, she’ll be ready to battle it out with the titans of the sport - especially athletes from the Republic of Korea who have basked in Olympic dominance for decades.

“It is always nice to compete against all of the Korean athletes and I have to admit, it’s even better to win, because they are known as the best archers in the world.”

She may also come face-to-face with world no 9 Deepika Kumari of India, who beat her in the gold medal match at the 2018 Salt Lake City Archery World Cup, an experience that Kroppen now looks at with perspective.

"The world cup in Salt Lake City was a competition with ups and downs, because it was very windy and difficult to handle. The gold medal match was a very tough match, even if I was nervous. Altogether I was very happy with the silver medal," Kroppen said.

It's a mental game

Win or lose, Kroppen believes it's important to stay patient.

"My favourite motto is 'patience is power'... sport means having a lot of patience because you aren’t world champion on day one when you start your sport."

"Stay patient and the good results will come. That gives power," she added.

And with her first Olympic Games within reach, Kroppen is planning to take it all in her stride.

“For myself, I just hope to have a lot of fun and to use my whole potential and maybe I can go home with a good result.”

It's no surprise that Kroppen appears so calm about the prospect of the upcoming Games. She has nerves of steel, just like the other elite archers in the world who have had to master them in order to survive the brutal selection tournaments year-in, year-out.

In fact, mental training is synonymous with being a great archer. Archery is much more of a mental game than a physical one, as it requires accuracy, focus and calm nerves - especially in Olympic competition where the target is 70m away.

This is why Kroppen dedicates her time, once a week, to mental visualisation.

"I don’t do mental drills every day, just once per week. Sometimes it’s to set a score over 36 arrows in my head, for example 335. And then I shoot 36 arrows and score. If I beat 335, I’m done. If I don’t, I will do it again until I beat it."

But as well as mental training, the physical side of archery is also important for Kroppen.

"At the moment I just focus on my technique. I use the time I have to do some changes and work a lot with video delay to watch my shots."

Like many great archers, Kroppen studies her own performance religiously and keeps a record of her training.

"I use a little notebook to write down the contents of my sessions."

"We have to document how many arrows we shoot per day and I use this little notebook to remember everything. I also have written down my bow settings and sight adjustments. Sometimes I write down some motivational sentences to keep my head in the game."

I loved it from the first second.

Passion for archery

Kroppen is currently undergoing gruelling training sessions at a national Olympic centre, while observing social distancing rules.

“We are just allowed to shoot alone at one target and have to keep distance from each other. We can use the gym, but not more than four archers at the same time," she says.

"We can’t use physiotherapy at the moment, which makes hard training days even harder."

“Our training is separated into different categories. Of course, we have ‘normal’ archery training, which means shooting, shooting and... of course more shooting. But we also have special contents, for example coordination training."

Aside from shooting practices on a balance pad, Kroppen also undertakes core stability training that is combined with athletics, including running, swimming and cycling.

And it's this well-rounded training - the combination of the mental and physical - that has brought Kroppen's career to where it is now: the top.

Earlier this year before the global lockdown, Kroppen became the German team champion for the second time in a row in the Bundesliga Finale and was also a champion at the Vegas Shoot 2020. Her star is set to shine even brighter if she makes an appearance at the Games.

And it's her love and passion for archery that has shone throughout her career. Ever since she took up the sport as an eight-year-old at her local archery club, Kroppen has loved every minute of it.

“I loved it from the first second."

"I love the most that I am 100 per cent responsible for my actions and my results, and that I receive immediate feedback after each shot."

With Kroppen now at the forefront of German archery, the sport has seen a surge of interest. Last year, the Archery World Cup in Berlin saw more than 1.5 million Germans tune in to watch the archery finals.

According to Archery Federation secretary general Jorg Brokamp the viewing figures were unprecedented. Only "athletics and swimming had better figures", he told WorldArchery.org.

With growing appeal, Kroppen now hopes archery "becomes more popular in the world."

As a trailblazer for the sport and with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, Kroppen is now in prime position to make that wish become a reality.