Lena Miculek comes from a shooting dynasty; but that hasn’t stopped her from making a name for herself in her own right. The daughter of famed competitive shooters Jerry and Kay Miculek, she has dominated competitions among a string of shooting styles. Miculek boasts seven world titles in five different shooting disciplines, no easy feat in a competition landscape steeped with shooters who spend years focusing on just one style.
The adventurous and bubbly Miculek takes it all in stride, though, energized by the constant change of pace and excitement that each day of practice and competition brings.
“I have the freedom to pick and choose,” said Miculek. “I like to do everything which can be kind of a downside because I usually get overwhelmed with how many different things I have to practice; but it’s an upside because it’s more challenging for me to not specialize in anything.”
Miculek adopted her frenetic schedule as a youngster. At the age of eight she entered into the competitive shooting world, plinking away at Steel Challenge matches, and by 15 she was taking on 3-Gun. Now, she takes home gold medals in an array of matches, peppering her calendar with both routine competitions and new challenges each year.
The journey to elite competitor wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. Miculek recalls failing her first several competitions, describing the tumultuous time as a “train-wreck.”
“The first year I started competing, fiercely competing, in 3-Gun I was so bad. I mean I was just terrible,” Miculek explained. “The first year I competed in about 26 major matches. I sucked at all of them, until finally at one of the last matches of the year, my mom sat me down mid-match with one stage to go.”
It was then that Kay Miculek dropped pearls of wisdom onto her young daughter. Sensing the mounting frustration, her mother advised her to lose all expectations of what each stage or match should be and instead focus on performing in the moment. Take it one shot a time. With nothing left to lose, Miculek stepped back up to the starting block, her mind focused solely on her first shot. That “a-ha” moment made its mark on the young Miculek, who went on to place 14th overall in that competition. Her mother’s advice still resonates with her years later.
“Shooting is such a mental game,” she said. “I finally figured out how to literally take every shot one at a time so I didn’t feel overwhelmed or have that rushed feeling. Time is a by-product of what I’m doing so I can't even think about it. If I’m thinking about that and I’m not thinking about shooting, it all falls apart.”
Though her mother’s words guided her through her early competitions, Miculek says her father has always been close by to offer his own take on success. Despite the fame, Miculek says her father has always remained humble, choosing to adopt an open mind constantly yearning for more knowledge. This quality he passed on to his daughter.
“My dad’s entire life motto, which sounds very much like my dad, is don’t get big head. Which sounds really weird, but it means the instant that you think you know how to do something you stop learning and you stop looking for a better way to do it,” Miculek expounded. “Every time I go on the range to practice, it’s assuming that everything I am doing is wrong and that there’s a better way. Every day it’s like what can I do different? I’m standing wrong, I’m holding the gun wrong, or doing this wrong and trying to find a better way.”
This constant process of modifying bits and pieces leads Miculek to regularly take classes. It’s here, she says, shooters of all varieties and levels learn how to improve.
“I always suggest classes,” said Miculek. “I’m a class taker on everything else in my life. I want someone who knows what they're doing who’s already figured it all out to help me. It saves money and time and you walk away with a lot more.”
Miculek is already knee-deep in 2018, this year focusing on Steel Challenge. Though she’s popping steel targets, her eye is always on the bigger goal—to have an individual world title in all three disciplines. She’s already accomplished an individual gold in rifle and one in shotgun, but it is pistol shooting that has proved elusive. She points to the time-consuming dedication it takes to become a gold medal pistol shooter.
“To make a big splash in pistol, you have to be a specialist. You have to spend a couple of years doing only that, which terrifies me. Pistol is my least favorite,” she said. “But that’s my long term goal. I want to do that.”
It’s her passion for competition and shooting that is evident in the way she speaks and competes.
“Everyone just wants to grow and share what they love in this sport,” she commented.
It’s the love of the sport that keeps competitors, like Miculek, coming back year after year, title after title, always seeking more.
Follow Lena Miculek on Instagram: @lena_miculek