Longtime international Ochoa-Anderson’s new environment demands success
Linda Ochoa-Anderson found herself in an unusual position last month at the first stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Guatemala City.
After nearly two decades flying the Mexican flag at internationals, the 34-year-old from Tlaquepaque made her debut as a member of the USA archery squad, guiding her new compound women’s team to a duel against her former squad in the final.
“I was super scared – it’s one of the toughest decisions I have ever made in my sporting career,” Ochoa-Anderson said prior to the tournament. “You grow up with the pride and joy of representing your country, and when I realised I was representing another country, it’s kind of weird.”
If the former world number two felt conflicted, she didn’t let it show in Guatemala City.
Wearing her USA team uniform for the first time, Ochoa-Anderson, Paige Pearce and Alexis Ruiz comfortably beat Mexico's Andrea Becerra, Esmeralda Sanchez and Margarita Valencia to claim gold, 229-223.
“It was great,” Ochoa-Anderson said of winning her first medal against her former team.
“Definitely, I feel like it was a little bit hard, especially after not shooting for this long and then shooting against Mexico. I have great teammates, and they were shooting really good. It feels really good.”
Ochoa-Anderson represented Mexico internationally for nearly two decades, winning a host of international medals, including a silver at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in 2018. She married US compound archer Steve Anderson in 2015 and hadn’t competed internationally for Mexico since that season-ending event more than two years ago.
The couple’s residence in Utah served as a major catalyst for her changing national teams, she said, as the inconvenience of travelling between two countries – for selection events, training camps and the other responsibilities that come with being a member of an international team – proved unsustainable.
Her decision, however, proved to be untimely.
Under World Archery rules, athletes must take a 12-month hiatus from international events to change national teams.
Ochoa-Anderson skipped the 2019 season to take the mandatory 12-month break – but her time away from the shooting line was extended when the pandemic cancelled international tournaments in 2020.
“I think that the pandemic year helped me to finish my adaptation, mentally speaking,” Ochoa-Anderson said. “Last year would have been my first year, and I knew it was going to be difficult, but being here, I don’t feel it so differently.”
Ochoa-Anderson entered the opening stage of the international circuit ranked 29th in the world, her place not hurt by the pandemic during which there was a freeze on points but by that year off in 2019. She jumped five places, to 24th, after Guatemala City.
With a team gold medal under her belt, she has her eyes on climbing the individual podium once again and reclaiming a ranking spot in the top 10.
As part of an ultra-competitive line-up that features the current world number one in Alexis Ruiz and the runner-up at the last world championships, Paige Pearce, the latest member of the USA compound women’s roster is in an environment that demands success.
“I think team USA is a very strong team, very close, they help each other a lot,” Ochoa-Anderson said. “I also had that in Mexico, but for me, it’s a huge achievement to be part of this team, because it’s hard.”
It’s long been known that even qualifying for the US compound team is tough. There was no guarantee that even such an accomplished international like Linda would secure a place so quickly. It was a risk.
It’s a risk that’s paid off. And not just for the archer. The USA squad now boasts one of the most consistent competitors in the history of the Hyundai Archery World Cup – and a level-headed, committed presence to complement its talented roster of up-and-coming young athletes.
“As it was a huge pride for me to represent Mexico for 17 years,” Linda said. “I’m proud to be a USA team member now.”