| (L-R) Joe Fanchin, coach KiSik Lee, Brady Ellison and Jake
Kaminski pose with their gold medals following the men's team
recurve competition at the World Archery Championships on
Oct. 6, 2013 in Belek-Antalya, Turkey.
Archery is one of the most precise of sports, where fractions of an inch separate winners and also-rans.
With the best archers on the planet going head-to-head under pressure at the Olympic Games or world championships — all aiming at a 4.8-inch diameter center ring from a distance of nearly 230 feet — arrows that veer even slightly off course shoot down medal hopes.
But at the seven-day outdoor World Archery Championships, which were held Sept. 29-Oct. 6 in Belek-Antalya, Turkey, all those usual margins of error were blown right out the window. Simply hitting the target was a victory.
“I had never been to a tournament where it was as windy as it was there,” two-time U.S. Olympic archer Brady Ellison said.
Battling the winds became the biggest trial for the 449 archers from 69 countries, with gusts often reaching 40 mph in the individual and team preliminaries.
“We were literally going from trying to hit the size of a football every shot to trying to just hit the whole entire field,” Ellison said. “It was just insane.”
Yet Ellison and teammates Joe Fanchin and Jake Kaminski passed every test of the windy week, conquering the elements and their opponents to win the men’s recurve team gold medal, the first U.S. team title at the outdoor world championships since 1983.
Upon reaching the final against the Netherlands — a team that had beaten the United States in its two most recent head-to-head meetings and knocked off South Korea in the semifinals — Team USA prevailed by a 214-211 score.
The final was tight, with the three-man teams tied 51-51 after the first round of six arrows. After two rounds, the Netherlands led 105-104. After three rounds, the United States had a 158-156 lead. The Americans then outshot the Dutch, 56-55, over the last six arrows to take the three-point victory. The result was in doubt all the way until Fanchin’s final shot of the match.
“I watched the arrow go down, and I knew it was going to be good,” said Ellison, of the arrow that struck the 9-point ring. “And as soon as he hit the target I threw my hands up in the air and Jake was excited and we knew it was good.”
The first U.S. victory in 30 years prompted an immediate celebration of all three archers, along with coach KiSik Lee.
“A lot of people have doubted the U.S. team,” Ellison told World Archery. “To get into the gold-medal match and almost win gold at the [Olympic] Games — and then we come here, where we have tough conditions, get to the finals and into the gold-medal match … and then win it. It’s big for us.”
For a U.S. team that has had its share of struggles since capturing a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the victory at the world championships was a huge accomplishment.
“Oh yeah,” said Ellison, the world’s No. 3 ranked archer, and the world’s No. 1 from 2011 through earlier this year. “We all wanted to win it. We all knew we could win it. We just had bad luck all year and just the year we had, we’re like, ‘We have to win one. It’s going to be worlds.’ That was our thought process going into it.”
Coming away with the gold required the American archers to stay steady throughout the competition and not be discouraged by their low scores.
It was survival of the fittest, archery style.
“We were shooting scores and winning with scores that were anywhere from 40 or 50 points lower for 24 arrows,” Ellison said. “The world records are 236 or 234; we normally shoot in the mid 220s — that’s what normally is winning matches — and we won our first match with a 169 (169-160 over Australia). I mean, like 15-year-old kids that haven’t shot before don’t shoot like that.
“It was so tough. And it went from literally trying to shoot 10s and 9s and never missing the gold to, you know what, let’s try to hit the red and if we shoot a 5 or 6, that’s points.”
Ellison had never been part of an outdoor team that had advanced past the quarterfinals at the outdoor worlds, so to finally win was satisfying, he said. He’s been a part of three U.S. teams that have won indoor titles.
“It was a very good cap to a frustrating year,” Ellison said.
Though the U.S. fared well in the team championship, Ellison, Fanchin and Kaminski weren’t able to advance past the quarterfinals in the individual competition. Ellison (who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.) lost in the quarters; Kaminski (Gainesville, Fla.) lost in the Round of 16; and Fanchin (Oceanside, Calif.) lost in the Round of 24.
“That was kind of disappointing, but that was another windy day, and just kind of what happens, happens,” Ellison said. “It wasn’t really good conditions. And when it gets really windy in archery, skill kind of goes out the window, and it’s kind of the lucky and the luckier.”
Ellison left Turkey with a second medal — a silver medal in the mixed team event — which he earned with Khatuna Lorig. Ellison and Lorig lost to a South Korean duo, 148-139.
It was Lorig’s first medal at an outdoors world championship for the five-time Olympian and individual bronze medalist from the 1992 Barcelona Games, where she competed for the Unified Team.
“All the things Khatuna’s done, that was her first world championship medal,” Ellison said. “So to be a part of that with her was pretty special.”
The only other U.S. medal won at the tournament was a bronze collected in mixed team by compound archers Jesse Broadwater and Erika Jones.
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.