The U.S. men's archery team of Brady Ellison (Glendale, Ariz. / Chula Vista, Calif.), Butch Johnson (Woodstock, Conn.) and Vic Wunderle (Mason City, Ill.) was eliminated by Chinese Taipei, 222 to 218, during the first round of team competition at the Beijing Olympic Green Archery Field on Monday.
The men were seeded 10th and Chinese Taipei was seventh in the 12-team tournament.
The U.S. opened the match with an early one-point lead after the first three arrows, but was down by one (55-54) at the finish of the first end (six arrows for each team). Chinese Taipei pushed the lead to four after three straight 10-point shots, and the U.S. would get no closer than two points the rest of the match. Chinese Taipei finished the round with three more perfect shots.
It's the second-straight Olympics the team failed to earn a medal and the first time since 1992 the team did not advance to the medal round. The U.S. team won gold in Atlanta in 1996, bronze in Sydney in 2000, and finished fourth in Athens in 2004.
Johnson was on each of those past teams. "I never would have expected to go out this early," said the five-time Olympian and two-time medalist. "We were pretty sure we'd make it to the medal round. It just didn't happen today. It wasn't from lack of effort; everybody tried their best. We just weren't on our game today."
Wunderle agreed with Johnson's assessment of the day's performance and the team's potential. "We had been shooting very well, been practicing very well. This game it comes down to if you're shooting good that day," said Wunderle, who is competing on his third Olympic team. "I was a little off this morning, and the whole team wasn't shooting up to our normal capabilities. I still feel we have a good team that was capable of winning the Olympics, if we just had a good day."
For the 19-year-old Ellison, it was his first experience in the Olympic venue. "I honestly wish I had gone in there and shot a lot better than I did," he said. "The first six arrows were high left. I kept moving my sight, just not enough. Finally I got the last two arrows in there. We didn't shoot as well as we expected, but we still shot a decent round."
The athletes now move on to the Individual Elimination Round, which is set for Wednesday, August 13 and will feature a traditional bracket of all 64 archers.
Wunderle will look to return to the medal stand, where he grabbed individual silver in Sydney in 2000. "We just have to move on, one arrow at a time," he said. "The arrow behind you has nothing to do with the arrow in front of you."
That short-term memory philosophy is the key, said Ellison. "It's one arrow at a time, whether it's in team or individual, so I'm going to go in there and shoot my shots. Hopefully they hit. I know how I feel in the stadium now, so I was able to learn from that today," he added.
Ellison is seeded 15th in the Individual Elimination and will go head to head against 50th seed John David Burnes of Canada at 11:57 a.m. on Wednesday. Johnson is seeded 40th and will play 25 seed Andrey Abramov at 4:48 p.m. Wunderle grabbed the 41st seed and will take on 24th seed Eduardo Velez of Mexico at 5:01 p.m.
Athletes who advance in the individual competition will continue to the round of 16 later Wednesday. The quarterfinals, semifinals, bronze medal match, and gold medal match are set for Friday, August 15.
Remaining event schedule for the U.S. Team:
Tue, August 12: Women's Individual Elimination Round (1/32 and 1/16)
Wed, August 13: Men's Individual Elimination Round (1/32 and 1/16)
Thurs, August 14: Women's Individual (Quarters, Semis, Bronze Medal and Gold Medal Matches)
Fri, August 15: Men's Individual (Quarters, Semis, Bronze Medal and Gold Medal Matches)