RIO DE JANEIRO — Jake Kaminski still thinks about the gold medal that got away at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Kaminski was a part of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Archery Team that secured a surprising semifinal win against then-defending champion South Korea. The win was overshadowed by a close defeat against Italy after the last arrow missed the scoring target by three-eighths of an inch.
“I don’t think I am still over it yet,” said Kaminski, 27. “…Medaling at all is totally unexpected and is so important to the impact on my life. At this point, I am still wishing it was gold, but I’m not stressing about it.”
Despite the loss, Kaminski felt his team made a statement. He believes the U.S. should have won the gold medal. Now on the eve of the 2016 competition, he plans to prove it.
“It is very hard to have control over things in archery,” he said. “So, I am just wanting to enjoy it and shoot the best I possibly can. I’ve made a lot of changes in my training plan and my technique… I am really excited to see what it does for me.”
Those changes have included a switch in his mechanical form. Kaminski has spent the last couple of months relieving stress on the muscles within his upper body. The new training program has helped him reach the No. 25 ranking in the world and his teammates have noticed.
“He is peaking at the perfect time and is shooting better than I seen him before,” said Brady Ellison, who was also on the silver-medal-winning team in London. “The difference between this team and last (2012) team is that the team is older and more experienced.”
Ellison is entering his third Olympics and is coming off one of his best seasons. In the first three outdoor world cups, he won individual gold, mixed team gold and scored the third-highest score in history during a qualification round. Indoors, he won the world cup final and earned bronze at the world championships.
The 27-year-old says the preparation has given him a lot of confidence to help the team aim for gold.
“Preparation has been going great,” he said. “We had some incredible draws on our familiarization. We got to shoot when the wind picked up and we got to the feel when the conditions weren’t favorable.”
Ellison also noted first-time Olympian Zach Garrett as another reason for his supreme confidence. He is thrilled to have him as a teammate and calls him a “young gun” that can score a lot of points.
“With the new set system, it is kind of a free-for-all to win with an even higher score,” Ellison said.
“He is an incredible shooter and adds to our scoring potential.”
Garrett agreed and says that he feels right at home with the team. He is the youngest on the team (21) and No. 3 in the world rankings.
“Being on a team with Jake and Brady and Coach (Kisik) Lee have been a huge help for me,” Garrett said. “There are a lot of distractions, some that are expected and some that are not. Having teammates that help you keep up with that is really important.”
Kaminski says the goal is to leave everything on the line and reclaim the gold medal that slipped through his fingers four years ago.
“Our potential is massive and sometimes Lady Luck has to fall on your side,” he said. “That’s why our goal is to leave it all out there regardless of the outcome.”
The men’s archery team will compete Saturday, the first full day of competition in Rio.
Jaylon Thompson is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.