Four U.S. archers are headed to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after the final stage of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Archery concluded Monday in Newberry, Florida.
The men’s team will be comprised of Brady Ellison, Zach Garrett and Jake Kaminski, while Mackenzie Brown has locked down her spot on the women’s team. Two other archers, veterans Hye Youn Park and five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig, can earn their spots at next month’s world cup event in Antalya, Turkey. If the U.S. women’s team finishes in the top three among non-qualified nations there, Team USA qualifies two additional individual spots and a place in the team competition in Rio.
The team is a blend of Olympic experience and fresh faces, all of whom have already had success on the international stage. Ellison will be competing at his third Olympic Games, Kaminski his second, and Garrett and Brown are first-timers. Should the U.S. qualify the additional two women’s spots, Lorig will make her sixth Olympic appearance for three different countries.
Brown has become known as the “girl on fire,” a nickname that was linked to her last August during the introductions for the gold medal final at a world cup competition in Poland.
“The DJ played the song by Alicia Keys ‘Girl on Fire,’ so I got that nickname and it stuck,” said Brown. “I actually like it quite a bit. I was a fan of 'The Hunger Games' because I read the books. It’s cool for people to see my name as the girl on fire and also get an interest in archery, even if it is from 'The Hunger Games.' Any interest in archery is good for our sport.”
Having successfully navigated the Olympic Trials process twice, Kaminski noted a big difference between 2012 and now.
“It was a lot more stressful because we had an incredible amount of talent shooting this year,” Kaminski said. “The third spot last year would not have made top eight this year. It’s incredible how much more depth we have in the field, so it’s been a lot more stressful. The last time by the second or third match I had officially locked (a spot on) the team, but this time it wasn’t until the very end that it was for sure that I was in. Because I had been through the process before, mentally I knew what to expect.”
That depth has pushed the top archers to perform even better, and Kaminski believes the extensive three-stage selection process has produced a team that can contend in Rio.
“We definitely have a really solid team,” he said. “The way that people have been shooting the last year, specifically the last eight to 10 months, definitely Brady, Garrett and I are the top three shooters in the U.S. right now.”
After a big win at the world cup event two weeks ago in Medellin, Colombia, Ellison finds that he is in a place where all aspects of his life are fitting together into one neat package.
“I have figured some things out technically as a shooter and progressed to the next level,” Ellison said. “I’m shooting good this year. I feel good, I’m confident, my life is awesome, I have an amazing new wife (Toja Cerne) and I’m happy. Everything is just lining up good.”
Here’s a look at the four archers who have qualified so far:
Currently No. 4 in the world, Brown, 21, was dominant throughout the Olympic qualifying process, leading the way through all three Olympic Trials. Demonstrating that she is rounding into form at the right time, she took silver at the indoor world cup final in Las Vegas in January, and had a strong 2015 outdoor season that included individual and team golds at the world cup event in Poland last August. She also won the bronze medal at the Rio test event last September. Her athletic career and Olympic dreams began in swimming, but she crossed over to archery and was invited to a Junior Dream Team training camp at age 13.
Slotted at No. 2 in the most recent world rankings, Ellison, 27, will compete at his third Olympic Games in Rio. A member of the trio that won silver in the team event in at the London 2012 Olympic Games, he is resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. He has medaled six times (five golds) in world cup competition, most recently two weeks ago in Medellin, Colombia, his first outdoor world cup gold medal since 2014. His trophy case includes three gold and two silver medals from the Pan American Games in addition to his Olympic, world championship and world cup hardware. He has overcome Perthes disease, a rare condition which causes hip problems and required surgery after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. No stranger to adversity, he won the 2013 team world title while competing with a broken hand.
Currently ranked No. 7 in the world, Garrett, 21, earned his first Olympic berth. At the beginning of May he took the individual silver medal at the first world cup stop in Shanghai, demonstrating that he is ready for the challenge of Olympic competition. He was part of the team silver medal effort at the 2015 world youth championships and the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, where he also placed fourth individually. In 2014 he won silver at the U.S. Open and bronze at the national target championships.
Kaminski, along with Ellison and Jacob Wukie, won the team silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Currently No. 25 in the world, he has enjoyed success in team events, with golds at the 2013 world championship and Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games, as well as the 2012 world indoor championship and 2010 world cup final (in mixed team). He also has earned individual gold at the 2010 Pan American Championships.