For Team USA archers, every cloud truly has a silver lining. USA team members took pride in the men’s team silver medal win – the United States’ first Olympic medal of the London Olympic Games, and the country’s first in archery since 2000 – but expressed mixed feelings about some of their other individual finishes.
Khatuna Lorig (West Hollywood, Calif.), a five time Olympian and team bronze medalist, carried the hopes of her team through the quarterfinals on Thursday after becoming the first American archer to advance to the 1/8 round in these Olympic Games. Lorig opened with a shutout win versus Sherab Zam (BHU), in which she took a 6-0 victory but shot several low-scoring arrows, presumably caused by weather conditions in the stadium. In her second match, she faced a tough opponent in Louise Laursen (DEN), who took Lorig to five sets but couldn’t hold off the Team USA athlete, who clinched the win with six set points.
Entering the final day of competition today, Lorig opened with a strong win in the 1/8 versus a tough opponent in China’s Cheng Ming, who had posted consistent scores herself throughout the event. Keeping the majority of her arrows in the gold over five sets, Lorig was able to take a 7-3 win to advance to the quarterfinals, meeting France’s Berengere Schuh.
In the quarterfinals, Lorig was most consistent in the wind, which picked up in the stadium as the match progressed. Her opponent – Berengere Schuh (FRA), an Olympic medalist and World Champion – took two set points but ultimately had too many inconsistencies in the wind to hold off Lorig, who was strong through the match with a 6-2 win, assuring Team USA another shot at a medal in the women’s semifinals.
In the semifinal, Lorig met world number two ranked archer Ki Bo Bae (KOR), who delivered a tough contest for Lorig. The archers drew the first set at one all; Ki won the second set, and Lorig drew the third, but it was not enough to hold off Ki, who grabbed the victory with two more set points, giving Lorig the chance to compete for the Olympic bronze medal versus Mexico’s Mariana Avitia, while Ki would face Mexico’s Aida Roman for the gold medal.
In the bronze medal match, Lorig seemed affected by the wind in her first three arrows, while Avitia hit a 30 to take the first two set points. Avitia took the second set as well, but Lorig came back, bringing the match to a 2-4 deficit. Needing to win the set or tie to stay in the competition, Lorig started with a dead center ten that shattered the camera, but was unable to hold off Avitia, who took the bronze medal with a 6-2 victory, giving Lorig a fourth place finish and making her the USA’s highest individual finisher for the second Olympic Games in a row.
“I had to fight with the wind over there, and unfortunately it didn’t go as I expected,” said Lorig with tears in her eyes as the competition finished. “I’m not a shooter who can go all the way out to the six ring [left and right]. You cannot read the wind and that’s not helping. You’re blocked…and you can’t tell which way the wind is going. The wind was shifting left and right at my time, and I need to practice now for the next four years so I can go for 2016.”
The other archers on the U.S. Olympic Team ended their London journeys with finishes in the 1/16 round and 1/32, despite their best efforts for the United States.
“I’m learning that the Olympic Games is an interesting stage that seems to have an opinion all of its own as to who should be the victor,” commented Miranda Leek (Des Moines, Iowa), who was stopped in competition on Monday. The 19 year old athlete won her first match, a 6-2 victory versus Kateryna Palekha (UKR), but was unable to edge out Pia Lionetti (ITA), who won three sets and tied a third versus Leek, 7-3. “It’s no joke that the Olympics is really anyone’s game,” she continued. “It all comes down to a handful of arrows.”
Jacob Wukie (Oak Harbor, Ohio), who began his individual bid on Tuesday, said after competition that he felt he made good shots but that they didn’t land as well as he expected. Wukie won his first contest, stopping India’s Jayanta Talukdar with a 6-0 shutout victory and just three arrows out of the ten ring. In his second match, however, it was Baard Nesteng of Norway who took the win, shooting six set points to Wukie’s two. “I gave it my best and was happy with how I was able to shoot,” wukie said in a post to fans. “It was truly a blessing to be on this team, to compete at this level and to be coming home with a medal.”
Three-time Olympian Jennifer Nichols (Cheyenne, Wyo.) approached her finish with the same positive attitude that her teammates expressed. Nichols, who pulled off a 6-5 finish versus Chekrovolu Swuro (IND), moved on to face Mongolia’s Bishindee Uratungalag, who took the win over Nichols, who retired after a 4-6 loss. “It’s archery…it’s a season of life,” Nichols said in interviews after her match. When asked about her future plans, Nichols – who is engaged to be married in September – put archery in perspective, saying it is a part of her life that will be more focused on family going forward.
Brady Ellison (Payson, Ariz.), the world’s number one ranked archer who was widely considered a medal contender, gave the packed house at Lord’s Cricket Ground one of its biggest surprises of the week, not with his win in the 1/32 round, but with a stunning loss in the 1/16. Ellison started the day strong, clinching a 7-1 win versus Mark Javier (PHI), shooting just two arrows out of the gold over four sets despite a swirling wind.
That wind, however, proved the determining factor in Ellison’s heartbreaker of a loss to Australia’s Taylor Worth in the 1/16. Worth, who previously stopped Ellison at the third stage of the Ogden World Cup earlier this year, seemed determined to have a replay of that match, and succeeded by the same margin that Ellison defeated Javier. “It just sucks,” said a disappointed Ellison as he exited the field of play. “I had several shots that I thought were good that didn’t hit…I mean dumbfounded. It was either me or Taylor guessed the wind a lot better than I did. The wind that you feel on you is the complete opposite of the flags.” When asked what was next for the two-time Olympian, Ellison said simply: “get ready for Rio.”
Jake Kaminski (Elma, New York), Ellison’s teammate, had a similar experience with the wind that resulted in an even earlier elimination from individual match play, with a shocking loss to 15 year old Dan Olaru of Moldova, the youngest archer on the field. Kaminski amassed a commanding lead, taking the match to 5-1, but with a six and a four from Kaminski, Olaru managed to tie the match and force a shoot-off, in which Kaminski shot a seven that ended his bid here in London.
“Really tough out there with the wind, there’s absolutely no way to read the wind at all,” lamented Kaminski in a post-competition interview. “It’s very very difficult to go out there and show what we can do because of the conditions. It’s tough.” When asked what his immediate plans were, Kaminski noted that he was looking forward to seeing more of London and other events: “I’m going to continue to absorb the Olympics,” he explained.
Image courtesy of Dean Alberga/World Archery Communications