The Path to Greatness


Patrick Pan

You probably have heard of Olympic legends such as Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. For most athletes, qualifying for the Olympics and winning a gold medal is the ultimate dream. But the road to achieving that dream is not a smooth one. The path to success requires time, dedication, and great sacrifice. As an experienced archer and experienced fencer, Patrick Pan and Evan Lau will share their experiences and stories as athletes who have each competed on the international level.

Evan and Patrick both began their sports careers at the age of 6, which is when their fathers introduced fencing and archery to Evan and Patrick, respectively. Patrick’s father was a star archer in college but had to give up the sport to support his family because of financial difficulties. Evan’s father was a star fencer in college but had to give up fencing to focus on medical school. Coincidentally, both parents wanted their children to do well in the sports they did in hopes of standing out to colleges in the future. Evan and Patrick came to be rather successful in their respective sports by the end of high school, but that wasn’t always the case.

When Evan first started fencing, he was relatively good and quickly rose to the top of his age group at the local level. Throughout his early days (ages 6 to 10) Evan performed well in fencing. At two consecutive national tournaments in 2011, he made the medals podium, placing 5th and 8th. The next 3 years, his results were not nearly as good, finishing the seasons well below his expectations. In 2015, Evan rose back up in a single tournament placing 15th of around 250 competitors in an age division higher than his own. It was here that he learned that he still had the skill to fence well in him. Now it was the mental game that proved to be a challenge. His success here earned him a trip to compete internationally in Budapest, Hungary in his sophomore year, a great experience of being exposed to the variety of fencing styles around the world. However, after this sudden rise came a sudden drop in Evan’s career. Unable to adjust to the new burdens of his sophomore year while juggling another sport at the same time, he began to lose at his mental game. He encountered hardships he never expected to come across including chronic injuries. But at the same time, these very hardships are what has shaped his personality today: confident, practical, and flexible.

Unlike Evan, Patrick did not have any success early in his career. Patrick attended his first state tournament at the age of 11 and ended up in dead last. Patrick was hundreds of points below where he needed to be, and the situation seemed hopeless. For the next two years, Patrick continued to attend tournaments, consistently placing near the bottom of all the archers. Despite this, Patrick did not give up. He continued to practice every day and eventually started to improve. However, his improvement was so slow that almost everybody, even his coaches, thought that he would never succeed. Because of how most people did not believe in him from the start and his early failures, Patrick developed a very strong mental game. He did not fear failure because he grew used to failing. Eventually, Patrick did began to experience some success, and rose in the rankings. In 2015 Patrick placed first in the State JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) indoor champions and placed in the top 30 in several national tournaments. His performance earned him an international trip to compete in Korea, but Patrick declined to attend. From this point forward, he began to believe that he could eventually succeed, and, he more importantly, began to believe in himself.

Over the course of their careers, Evan and Patrick learned a great deal about competitive sports and life. Highly competitive sports take up lots of time and require endless amounts of energy and dedication, and many people wonder if they are worth all the time and effort. At the end of the day, you only get out what you put in. If you want to succeed in anything, you will have to sacrifice more than you can imagine. Patrick’s and Evan’s families sacrificed enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources for the hope that their children may succeed. They had to pay for the best equipment and lessons from the best coaches so that their children could stay competitive, and for plane tickets to go to tournaments around the world. Over their careers, Patrick and Evan spent about nine thousand hours practicing and competing. After school every day, Patrick bussed to Golden Gate Park to shoot for three hours before going home to eat and study. On weekends and holidays, Patrick spent from eight to fourteen hours practicing archery or studying how to shoot better. The two athletes have lost track of a number of parties they missed, the games that they didn’t get to play, and the television shows they could not watch. They sacrificed all this and much more just so that they could have a chance of succeeding in their sports. The purpose of this description is not to guilt-trip or make one feel lazy, but rather to describe just how much one must sacrifice for victory. And sometimes, you do not win even after sacrificing everything. Sometimes, your everything is just not enough, and you have to accept that fact. Be able to be flexible with whatever life throws at you because it will not always be what you want.

More importantly, Evan and Patrick learned that confidence is the key to success. A quote that Patrick likes to say is “hesitation and doubt kill dreams faster and more often than anything else.” In both sports and life, you have to be confident in your abilities. In fencing and archery, if you doubt your ability to win before you enter an elimination match, your chances of success become very slim. If you doubt yourself while you are in the middle of a match, you will become nervous and slowly your mental game will deteriorate. If you doubt your ability to do great things, you will never reach your full potential.What these two learned is that even if there appears to be almost a chance of victory, there is always a way to win. In their careers, the two athletes have faced opponents who were in age groups and skill levels above them and prevailed. In the face of challenges, says Evan, “just go for it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”