Jake Kaminski shoots during the U.S. men's team archery final match… (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty…)
LONDON — They had rallied twice to reach the gold-medal match of the men's team Olympic archery competition and fought unpredictable winds that carried some of their 24 arrows agonizingly short distances off target in the finale. There was nothing more Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski and Jacob Wukie could do Saturday afternoon asItaly'sMichele Frangilli prepared to shoot the final arrow of the championship, needing to score a nine for a tie and a 10 for a win.
"We're just up there and hoping for the best. We're not really hoping negatively for anybody because we don't like to do that," Kaminski said. "We were just waiting. Whatever happened, whatever fell into our laps, we were going to accept it."
After Frangilli's shot found the center of the target 70 meters away to clinch a 219-218 victory, the U.S. men were accepting silver medals before an appreciative crowd at Lord's Cricket Ground, proud to be the first U.S. athletes to win a medal in the London Games and the first U.S. archers to have won an Olympic medal since 2000.
"It's a great honor to be able to go out there and be the first event and especially come away with a medal," said Ellison, an Arizona native and the world's top-ranked archer. "It's hopefully a good sign for a great Games for the U.S. We're proud to be the front-runners and lead the charge."
After staging a late surge to push past Japan in the quarterfinal, 220-219, and another rally to upset three-time defending champion South Korea in the semifinal, 224-219, the Americans again found themselves trailing against Italy.
After four ends — the equivalent of innings — they were behind, 110-106, and the Italians seemed ready to close. Kaminski wouldn't let them, leading off each of the next three ends with a perfect 10. Wukie, of Oak Harbor, Ohio, also scored a 10 in the fifth and six ends. After seven ends the U.S. deficit was down to a point, helped by Frangilli's eight to close the seventh end.
However, Kaminski led off the final end with an eight after the wind moved his shot farther to the right than he expected. Wukie scored a 10 and Ellison scored a nine to sustain their chances, which grew when Italy got a nine from Mauro Nespoli and an eight from Marco Galiazzo. Then Frangilli stepped to the line.
"I knew I had to score 10 after Marco had hit eight," Frangilli, previously a bronze and silver medalist, said through a translator. "I heard noise among the crowd and felt pressure, but I decided to empty my head of all of this and find my technique. I knew I had hit the golden area."
Frangilli cried on the medal stand while the Italian anthem was played. Kaminski, Ellison and Wukie, who trained and roomed together for several years at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, mounted the second step and stood arm-in-arm-in-arm, fitting for friends who Kaminski said "basically lived and breathed archery every day" and used that camaraderie to their strategic advantage.
"Brady's like, 'It's a silver,' but no way. Come on," Kaminski said. "We accomplished our main goal, which was to come over here, enjoy ourselves, have a good time, be in the moment and just absorb it all. It's still a great, great thing."
Archery has recently enjoyed a burst of popularity thanks to the "Hunger Games" books and films. The success of Kaminski, Ellison and Wukie could inspire first-time watchers to give archery a second try.
"I really hope so," Kaminski said. "It's a sport that anyone and everyone can get into. I hope with all the movies and us winning the medal here it will keep a lot of people interested."
South Korea defeated Mexico, 224-219, to win the bronze medal.
The U.S. women, who finished second in the team qualification, will compete for a team medal Sunday. Khatuna Lorig of West Hollywood, a five-time Olympian, ranked fourth in qualifying with a score of 669.