Gold success for Italian archers
The archery competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games got off to a fine start with surprises and upsets aplenty. In the final of the Men's Team event, the Italian team of Michele Frangilli, Marco Galiazzo and Mauro Nespoli built up a four point lead, but the US hit back to halve the halfway deficit entering the last end. Italy came into the final round just one point ahead of the US at 192-191. Italy had never won an Olympic Games Men's Team gold.
The US team shot first. Jake Kaminski shot an 8, followed by Jacob Wukie with a bulls eye, 10 and Brady Ellison with a 9, just a millimetre or so to the left of the bulls eye. The Americans, led by world number one, Brady Ellison, had the gold within their grasp. Nespoli shot a 9, Galiazzo an 8 which meant they were down 209 to 218 with Frangilli needing to shoot his final arrow. Frangilli's last shot had been an 8 and a bulls eye - a perfect 10, stood between gold and silver for Italy.
With the wind swirling round the historic Lord's Cricket Ground and 4,000 fans holding their breath, the Italian stepped up to the line, took the pressure on his broad shoulders, let the seconds tick down, held his nerve, then coolly sighted in his target 70 metres away and released his arrow and hit the centre of the target, giving his Italian team a one-point win, 219-218 over the United States and claim the Gold medal.
Frangilli's team mates, Nespoli, 24 and Galiazzo, 29 stood transfixed as the final arrow flew to the target and then mobbed their team mate. His shot hit the line on the left of the bulls eye, only a millimetre closer than Ellison's shot but that was the difference between gold and silver.
Frangilli aged 36, who had won team silver behind South Korea in 2000 at the Sydney Games and team bronze at Atlanta in 1996, was overjoyed after the victory ceremony and broke down in tears with the gold medal around his neck and reflected on the culmination of an Olympic story that began with his bronze in Atlanta.
"This was a very hard fought medal. I've been chasing it for 16 years," he said. "This is a dream come true. It is a very strong emotion and to score 10 with the last arrow, it was a dream. I knew I had to score 10. There was the noise of the crowd and I felt the pressure, so I tried to just empty my head of everything. I don't know what to say. I had a few seconds left. I tried to give all I had to give. The arrow flew. It flew straight. I saw it flying straight into the 10. My shot was clean. When I heard 10, I was excited. I was under so much pressure because time was running out." added Frangilli. "We weren't sure if we could get the medal but we worked really hard and really well together. We are shooting better as a team than as individuals. I'm speechless. I have no words to describe what I feel. When we came here we were not sure if it was possible." he told reporters. Italy had missed out on the team gold medal in 2008 after losing by two points to South Korea.
The dramatic 219-218 win capped a day of surprises in the competition, with favourites, the Republic of Korea losing 224-219 to the USA in the semi-final. Galiazzo, who won the individual gold in Athens, said taking the team title had been a priority. "The team gold is something we had been chasing for many years. We shot the best we could and here we are." he said.
For the United States, winning the team silver represented a massive leap forward in their development under their coach, KiSik Lee. In 1997, Lee moved to Australia with his family and along with his family, became Australian citizens and he became the Australian archery coach. He was poached by US Archery in 2006 to become the US Olympic Coach and now divides his time between USA Archery and his Australian interests. Australian Simon Fairweather's individual gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Tim Cuddihy's bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Olympics are testament to Lee's success as a coach.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the young Americans who in the semi-finals had knocked out defending champions, archery super power South Korea, who had set two world records in the ranking round on Friday and had won three consecutive team gold medals at the Beijing, Athens and Sydney Games. "I'm very proud of our team, with Jake and Wukie stepping up and shooting 10s. If I had shot 10 to back them up, it would have swung the match." said Ellison.
"But everything happens for a reason and I'm really excited about the silver medal." The US team really wanted that gold but they just weren't good enough on the day. The Italian team's depth of experience really pulled them through when they needed it. To have shot that 10 under that pressure, Michele Frangilli is going to be the hero of the Italian team.
South Korea's defeat left Im Dong-hyun, Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek shell shocked, but they did their best to look happy with the bronze medal. The Koreans, who were going for a fourth consecutive Olympic team gold, had to settle for bronze after beating Mexico in the playoff.
"I didn't do as well as expected against the United States," conceded Im, who set a world record in the 72 arrow ranking round on Friday. "My condition was OK but somehow I couldn't get 10 points. I need to forget about it because I have the individual matches coming up."
Korea's stranglehold on the team event has not been matched in the individual archery competition, where no South Korean man has ever won the individual gold medal.
Earlier, on Friday, 27th July 2012, Im Dong-hyun, who is registered as blind, set an individual world record at Lord's and helped South Korea to a team world best. South Korea claimed the first world records of London 2012 on Friday morning with a stunning display in the men's archery ranking round at Lord's.
Im Dong-hyun, broke his own 72-arrow mark of 696 by three points and was also part of a record in the team shoot. Im's partial sight means he shoots at the centre of a colourful blur he sees 70 metres before him.
Alongside Kim Bubmin and Oh Jin-hyek, he helped register a 216-arrow total of 2,087, smashing the world record by 18 points.The day's shooting got under way in perfect conditions, with the Korean trio setting the standard. They took the three top seedings, with the world No 2 Im, again leading the way, breaking the world record for the third occasion since the London 2012 test event. Despite rain affecting the second half of the ranking shoot, Im still finished with a superb 699. Kim was just one point behind with 698 and Oh closed with 690.
The top five was rounded out by Great Britain's Larry Godfrey, who recorded a personal best of 680 and Japan's Takaharu Furukawa one point further back. World No1 Brady Ellison of the US had a disappointing day, placing 10th with a total of 676. Elsewhere, Ukraine's reigning Olympic champion Viktor Ruban was down in 43rd with 660.
These are the rules which archers compete under at the Olympics.
Archers stand 70 metres from their target and score points by shooting arrows at 10 concentric scoring zones, from the golden 'bullseye' 10-score at the centre to the one-score on the white outer ring. They have 40 seconds to release each arrow.
In the individual and team competitions, a preliminary round to determine seeding takes place before the official start of the Olympic Games, consisting of 72 arrows.
The seedings are used to determine who plays whom in the head-to-head elimination rounds. In the individual competition, 64 archers compete in a knock-out format, with matches comprising 12 arrows each.
Any country that qualifies three male or three female archers into an individual event can compete in the corresponding team event. Team events follow the same competition format as the individual events, with the exception that knockout matches consist of 24 arrows per country, eight per archer.