Record-breaking archer Alex Wifler just bows with the flow
BY DALE BOWMAN Sun-Times Media November 2, 2013 12:18AM
Alex Wifler, 19, of Crete capped off a “crazy year” with some world records in the World Archery Youth Championships in Wuxi, China, last month. | For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 4, 2013 6:25AM
Sometimes you improvise.
Say you’re Alex Wifler and you break a finger, then can no longer shoot a recurve bow.
‘‘I hit it against a metal pole while playing disc golf in Texas,’’ the 19-year-old from Crete said. ‘‘Crazy me, I didn’t think it was broken and kept playing. I had snapped the bone right in half. It was my middle finger, too. Doctor told me I can’t shoot for a week.’’
After five days, he improvised.
‘‘I had a strap to go around my elbow so I could pull back a compound [bow],’’ he said. ‘‘I took that [doctor’s orders] as a suggestion more than a rule. Luckily I have an understanding orthopedic [surgeon].’’
With a cast on, Wifler shot the Gator Cup in Florida.
That was just a prelude to heroics that would include three world records in compound over the next few months.
It’s a ‘‘crazy year for Alex,’’ as his coach and mother, Chris, put it.
The craziness began about eight years ago.
‘‘My cousins had bows,’’ Wifler said. ‘‘I found it the coolest thing ever. For my 11th birthday, I picked up a bow and have been hooked ever since.’’
He quickly picked it up, especially with help from Mike ‘‘Uncle Buck’’ Szafranowski at On Target Archery in Steger.
‘‘Mike is his first phone call after every tournament,’’ said Chris Wifler, who honed her coaching skills on an eight-week trip to Korea.
Wifler shot compound bow for about four years before going to the recurve for the last three.
With the broken finger and return to compound, he went on a world-record tear.
His first world record with the compound came in August at the Canadian Nationals, when he scored 356 out of 360 at 50 meters.
‘‘I had no idea at all,’’ he said. ‘‘One of the coaches on the trip said, ‘I think you shot a world record.’ ’’
That skill is no accident. Wifler shoots eight to 10 hours a day, six days a week.
Last month in Wuxi, China, at the World Archery Youth Championships, he earned two silvers, one with the junior men and one with the mixed team.
The junior men — Wifler, Bridger Deaton (Pella, Iowa) and Danny Button (Monona, Wis.) — set two world records. First was for 3 x 72 Arrows Ranking Round (team qualification) on Oct. 14 with 2,111 out of 2,160, smashing the record of 2,082. Three days later, they set the 24 Arrows Final Match (head-to-head) record with 238 out 240; the record was 235.
Wifler’s sponsors include Doinker Stabilizers, BCY strings, Axcel Archery Sights, Easton, Hoyt, On Target Archery and mentor Mel Nicholas.
Yet he finds time to teach twice a week at On Target.
‘‘I love teaching,’’ he said. ‘‘I like to give back some of the knowledge I learned and trying to help people as much as I can.’’
Next is trying for the 2016 Olympics (only recurve is an Olympic sport). Wifler is already back to shooting recurve.
But he does have a life.
For the last year and a half, he has been learning improv at iO Chicago.
‘‘I love making people laugh,’’ he said. ‘‘I always wanted to try it, and I found a place that is really cool. It is a nice break from archery — something else to focus on.’’
Asked if he saw himself some day going for the laugh rather than target, he answered, ‘‘Why not both? I can’t see myself ever giving up archery. I enjoy it too much. That is what I do.’’