It was his first of five consecutive Sunshine State Games recurve gold medals at the 2010 Sunshine State Games in Gainesville.
“He seemed to be most intrigued with the big shiny medal and had a big smile on his face,” she recently recalled.
But what does Ryan remember about that day in Gainesville?
“It was very hot and I was nervous because it was my first tournament,” he says. “But I was excited because I thought it was a really big tournament at the time. I also met a lot of new people at my first archery tournament experience.”
Kim has seen quite a few medals and trophies won by Ryan since that June day in 2010 at the Newberry Archery Center. After taking first place in three of the four 2015 events to determine the United States Archery Team rankings, Ryan is the top Cadet Male Recurve archer in the nation.
His success story is a classic of the Sunshine State Games. A young athlete picks up a sport, finds out it’s really something he or she likes and wins a local competition. They venture on to a statewide competition and continue their winning ways.
More training and practice time is welcomed as a motivating factor to be even better. The athlete and family begin traveling to national events of the chosen sport and more success and accolades roll in.
“Ryan’s story is one of the original ideals of the Sunshine State Games when it began in 1980,” said Florida Sports Foundation Sr. Vice President Stephen Rodriguez. “ Bob Graham, who at the time was a state Senator, was disappointed to find out how few Florida athletes were on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team. When he later became Governor, he set out to begin a program that developed more Olympic athletes from the State of Florida.”
Not only does he have motivation to achieve sports goals, he has academic goals in mind as well. Ryan is enrolled at Santa Fe Community College and is a full-time student taking 12 hours of classes in the fall semester.
“I’m trying to earn a bachelor’s degree by 2020 from the University of Florida in mechanical or aerospace engineering or aerospace,” he said. “I want to get as much school work done so I have at least two years to train full –time for the Olympics beginning sometime around 2018.”
While his reputation and talent level grew winning Sunshine State Games gold medals from 2010 to 2014 in the Bowman, Cub and Cadet class, Oliver missed the 2015 Games because he was competing in the European Youth Championships in Rome, Italy. His summer travels also found him at the Youth World Championships in Yankton, South Dakota and the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in College Station, Texas. In the Olympic Trials, he shot with Senior –level archers.
It’s crazy how fast this has progressed,” Oliver said. “It seems like yesterday when I started to competing and learning more and more about the sport. Now I have the opportunity to compete at the highest levels in the world.”
During the summer of 2015, Ryan matched talents with archers from all over the world. At the World Championships in South Dakota, he lined up with athletes from South Korea, Italy, Russia, Brazil and Mexico. At the European Youth Championships, in Rome, over 20 European countries were represented.
He has traveled extensively, achieved a number one ranking in the sport and is enrolled in college classes. What more could a 15-year old do to keep himself busy?
Ryan started making his own bowstring at the age of 12 and developed a talent, which he has turned into a business, Arrow Dynamic Bowstrings. He claims the demand for his craft is the busiest in February and March right before the outdoor season begins.
“Right now I’m working on order of 34 strings,” he says. “That’s pretty big order.”
With a son who is a nationally-ranked archer, a college student at age 15 and a budding entrepreneur. Take your pick, Kim Oliver, for a big smile for yourself.