ARCHERY LEADS TO ROOTS
May 24, 2007
Author: Jeff Metcalfe, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 5
2008 OLYMPIC HOPEFUL LINDSAY PIAN FINDS HERSELF AT THE CENTER OF CHINESE
When 10-year-old Lindsay Pian visited China a decade ago, she was only beginning
her archery career. That was four years before Beijing landed the
2008 Summer Olympics.
To imagine that she and the Olympics could intersect in her paternal
grandparent's native country was not even on the target.
Even now, with Pian ranked third nationally and preparing for her World
Championships debut, it's easier to downplay her seeming destiny than to embrace
"We don't even want to really think this is going to happen," said her father
Bob Pian, an architect in Scottsdale. "We understand potential, but we
understand there are so many things that could hiccup this whole process.
So it's just one day at a time, see where it goes and make sure there's still
space on the credit card."
Richard Pian was completing a doctorate in structural engineering at Cornell
University in the mid 1940s. Mabel Lou was working on a master's at Michigan
Their proud families, both living in Tianjin, China, were maneuvering for a
pairing of the degrees.
After dating by mail, Richard left Ithaca, N.Y., to join the civil engineering
faculty at Michigan State in 1948. He and Mabel married that same year and began
their own family that grew to four children. Arizona has been home since 1959,
when Richard became a structural engineering professor at Arizona State until
his retirement in 1984.
Family lore is that Arizona won out over Alabama because Lanna, the oldest
child, wanted to be close to Disneyland. Bob Pian believes that his father
"thought there was a lot more potential in Arizona."
Certainly Richard didn't foresee a potential Olympian.
Lindsay remembers the conversation with her father this way: "You need to do
something extracurricular, preferably outdoors." She was 10, the same year as
her trip to China, and already had an interest in archery after being introduced
to it at a Girl Scout camp in Prescott two years earlier.
The Pians started down the Junior Olympic Archery Development path with no
"We never would have thought we could go to the national tournament," Bob Pian
said. "No, no, she's just a little person shooting in a little range down here
at the corner. She's not good enough to do that. Without encouragement, we
wouldn't have ever thought about it."
But starting in 2002, Lindsay was making a name at the national cadet and junior
levels. She finished 16th, at age 17, at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials and soon
after made her first international trip to England for the Junior Outdoor World
"I was super nervous," she said. "I didn't want to let USA down, let me down,
let my sponsors down. I remember putting a lot more pressure on myself than I
probably should have. I was used to finishing fairly high. When they did the
first leader board update, I was in 64th. I was like how did this happen? I've
got to kick this into high gear."
Pian rose to 13th in qualification and finished 22nd after individual matches.
Archery since has taken her to Brazil, Denmark, Slovakia and most recently
Italy. This summer, she'll compete in Turkey, Germany and Brazil for the Pan
American Games. In early August -- one year before the Olympics
-- she will be among a half dozen American athletes with Chinese heritage
traveling to Beijing for a U.S. Olympic Committee media tour."I imagine I would
appreciate it a lot more than I did when I was 10," she said. "Absorb a lot
more, take a lot more pictures, write in a journal."
The first trip
Pian remembers seeing Panda bears at the Shanghai Zoo on her first trip to
China. She tried to convince her grandpa to go with her to the Great Wall.
"Why on earth would I want to do that?" Richard told her. "It was my backyard,
I've seen it."
The poverty that Lindsay saw in China also made an impression. "Kids would come
up to you and ask for money or want to sell you something," she said.
"At first it confused me. It didn't occur to me that someone could not have a
house or clean clothes to wear."
Lindsay will be in high demand with the U.S. and Chinese media if she qualifies
for the Beijing Olympics because of her heritage. That's turning family members,
including those in China, inward to discover more about themselves in the
absence of Richard and Mabel, who died four months apart in 2005.
Lindsay, the only grandchild in Arizona, was close to her grandparents. The
Pians are a nearly textbook example of Chinese-American family patterns.
"My dad was into saying we're in the United States now, we should be watching
westerns," Bob said. "And we're going to speak English in the household. They
wanted to be as American as possible. I didn't embrace the Chinese language at
all. Then the second generation, which would be Lindsay, comes to me and say how
come you didn't teach me Chinese?"
Bob's brother Tom, who helped Kodak to establish its first factory in China,
serves as the unofficial family historian. Richard, for instance, worked on the
early stages of the monumental Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.
"In the early 2000s, when my dad was not in good health, he got a letter from
China inviting him to the groundbreaking," Bob said. "It just boggled my mind.
The Chinese are very good at record keeping and really respects their heritage.
It's almost a responsibility."
The road ahead
Archery is highly valued in China.
"The archer perfects his form within himself," wrote Confucius, for whom archery
was central to his philosophy about a well-rounded life. "If his form is
perfect, yet when he releases he misses, there is no point in resenting those
who have done better than him. The fault lies nowhere but within himself."
The Pians are learning something akin to that during Lindsay's rise into the
She took this year off from Arizona State, where she would have been a
sophomore, to work with national team coach Kisik Lee at the Olympic Training
Center in Chula Vista, Calif. The left-hander now is stronger, shooting with a
40-pound draw on her recurve bow compared with 30 when she was 2006 U.S.
The three-phase U.S. Olympic trials begin Sept. 27-30 in Conyers, Ga. The final
phase, in May 2008 when the field is down to eight trying to earn three berths
in Beijing, is likely to be held at the Ben Avery Range in north Phoenix.
"This whole adventure has been unmapped, unplanned, unanticipated," Bob Pian
said. "I guess we just don't want to embarrass ourselves. There is no road map
for how to do this well especially in archery. Everybody is very independent.
"What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another."
Brady Ellison, an 18-year-old from Glendale, is another strong candidate for the
U.S. team, but so is 51-year-old, four-time Olympian Butch Johnson.
Even though archery lends itself to longevity, Pian doesn't see herself putting
in the work to shoot competitively in 2012. Her time is now.
"It's definitely well within my grasp to make the team," she said. "I can't even
imagine what it would be like, because I don't have anything to compare it to.
It would be a mind-blowing experience."
CAPTION: Valley archer Lindsay Pian is training in California for the 2008
Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Edition: Final Chaser