London, United Kingdom - An estimated 500 reporters lining a field 70 meters deep, coupled with lots of hype around the first arrows shot in the 2012 Olympic Games, didn't seem to rattle the members of the U.S. Olympic Archery Team: both the women's and men's teams clinched byes into the quarterfinals of their respective team events.
The men's ranking round opened the archery competition at the Olympic Games with nearly perfect weather conditions: overcast skies, little to no breeze and temperatures in the mid-sixties. After 36 arrows, Korea managed to take a stronghold on the top three spots, with archers Bubmin Kim, Jin Hyek Oh and Dong Hyun Im changing positions but staying ahead of the pack.
Team USA's Brady Ellison (Payson, Ariz.), Jake Kaminski (Elma, New York) and Jacob Wukie (Oak Harbor, Ohio) climbed the rankings throughout the morning; after 18 arrows, team members were ranked between 5th and 31st, but managed to narrow the margin by the half thanks to strong shooting from all three team members.
"You know, we shot well here as a team, we shot the ranking round as a team, so it was a good experience for further increasing our chances and our team ability together," explained Kaminski. "So we'll go [to the team eliminations] and just keep doing the same thing we've been doing. Either way, we're going to be happy."
After 72 arrows, Ellison led the U.S. team in tenth, with 676; Wukie shot 673 for 12th, and Kaminski ended in 18th with 670, allowing the team to take one of the coveted top four positions that are automatically byed into the quarterfinal matches for the team event. The qualifications were led by Im, who shot a new world record with a 699 for Korea, followed by teammates Kim and Oh with 698 and 690, respectively. Collectively, Korea qualified first with a world record 2087; they were followed by France, China and USA.
When asked whether Korea is unbeatable at this point, Ellison commented: "No. They have three great shooters on their team and they always dominate the ranking round…they're hard to beat in the ranking round but once you get into the stadium and there's a lot more pressure… We seem to step up under pressure a lot more than [in] these ranking rounds, and we shoot a lot better once we get [into the competition venue] so hopefully we'll continue to do that."
The U.S. women's team showed their own brand of determination this afternoon when they stepped onto the field. Led from early on by five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig (West Hollywood, Calif.), and with strong performances by Miranda Leek (Des Moines, Iowa) and Jennifer Nichols (Cheyenne, Wyo.), the team started out strong and never looked back.
By the half, all three USA team members were ranked in the top twenty; though Korea's Bo Bae Ki, Chinese Taipei's Chia-En Lin and Korea's Sung Jin Lee led the pack, Lorig had pushed her way into 7th after 42 arrows, and Leek and Nichols were 13th and 16th respectively, putting the U.S. team into fourth.
Holding in that position for a few ends, the three team members exhibited especially strong shooting in their final ends to push from fourth to a very solid second place finish in the team qualifications behind Korea, and just ahead of Chinese Taipei and Mexico. Lorig ended her day in fourth with a 669, while Leek and Nichols finished 14th and 15th respectively with 656 and 654.
"It feels amazing," commented Leek, noting that she was pleased to have begun competing."I definitely had my hopes set on being here for a very long time, and to come here and have these dreams realized is amazing. Today I've officially shot arrows for score at the Olympic Games and its a very exciting experience."
Lorig echoed her teammate's thoughts, taking a tongue-in-cheek approach when asked whether the team was after a gold medal: "We all want a gold medal, if not we'll get silver. We'll take bronze. Any medal will be good," she laughed. Nichols agreed: "I feel like we had a good performance today, and we're excited about the team competition coming up."
Competition continues tomorrow with the men's team eliminations through the gold medal final, and will run each day through August 3. Click here to visit World Archery's website for full results; click here to "Follow the Team" with links to television and live-streaming schedules, as well as team profiles and more.