Mike Schloesser values consistency over top seeds

Mike Schloesser doesn’t always expect to win, but many of his opponents assume he will. 

The world number one can feel their despair. Consistently favoured in every tournament he enters, a lower-ranked archer will draw Schloesser in the compound men’s bracket, realise their fate and anticipate their demise with an air of inevitability.

They do not always crumble, though. Other times, Schloesser has noticed, an archer will find their doomed prospects oddly invigorating. 

“You can tell sometimes early in the match that the opponent knows he already lost, so he’s going to shoot freely, kind of, and then he shoots really well,” the Dutchman said. “Then, as the match goes on, they realise they have a chance to win and start to freeze up. The nerves step in and they begin to fall apart.”

Schloesser has grown accustomed to the boost in performance his presence inspires. In these moments, he does his best to ignore the score and trust that his opponent will come back down to earth.

His status atop the leaderboard, after all, is far from an anomaly. 

The reigning circuit champion is unbeaten in qualification this season, seeding first in each of the four tournaments he has entered since stage one of the international circuit in Guatemala City.

“It’s very satisfying,” said Schloesser, who has reached the final four in all three stages of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup.” To me, it proves that I’m just at a really high level at the moment and the work I’ve been putting in has paid off.”

Mike Schloesser poses with his bronze medal at the third stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, France.

Schloesser opened the season with a 717-point qualification round in Guatemala City, and he shot matching scores of 716 at the second stage in Lausanne and then the European Championships in Antalya before claiming the pole with a 715 this past week in Paris.

He has converted those impressive starts into one individual gold so far, in Lausanne. More crucial, he said, has been his ability to advance deep into tournaments with such consistency.

“Archery isn’t a sport like sprinting, Usain Bolt, where if you’re in top form you’ll win three races in a row because you’re the fastest,” Schloesser said. “Sometimes, archery is kind of cruel. Even if you’re at the highest level, even if you feel like you’re better than your competition, there’s always an outside factor that you can’t control that can ruin things.”

Schloesser settled for bronze in Paris after losing in the semifinals to Kris Schaff of the USA in a tiebreak. It was his third podium of the season after collecting silver in stage one and gold in stage two, which vaulted him ahead of Braden Gellenthien for the top spot in the world rankings. 

His fourth-round loss in the European Championships, a tournament he has historically struggled at, is the only thing resembling a blemish on his 2021 resume. Schloesser will be favoured to defend his title at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in September, though that tournament is structured differently – with just three matches to win and no qualifying round.

Qualification is ultimately just one phase of a tournament, he said. While it’s a good indicator for success, there are other variables that determine who climbs the podium at the end of the week.

“To me, I think that’s what makes archery beautiful – and also what makes it exciting to shoot,” Schloesser said. “You’re never sure who the winner is going to be.”