The U.S. archery team has won Team USA's first medal of the London Games--a silver, earned after upsetting gold-medal favorite South Korea in the semifinals. But the U.S. will also rue their missed opportunity in the final after losing to second-seeded Italy 219-218.
With the U.S. up nine points on the final arrow of the match, the Italians needed a 10-point shot for the win or a 9 to force a shoot-off. But the final Italian archer delivered a bullseye to win Italy the gold.
Led by world No. 1 archer Brady Ellison (pictured), the U.S. came into the final on fire after scoring 59 out of a possible 60 points in the fourth and final end against South Korea. That display was enough to give the Americans a stunning 224-219 victory over the top-seeded defending Olympic champion.
The team of Ellison, Jake Kaminski, and Jacob Wukie trailed 55-53 after the first "end" vs. the Koreans but led them 165-164 after the third before pulling away in the fourth. The 224 was the second-highest score of the competition, behind only the Koreans' 227 in the quarterfinals.
Despite that momentum, the U.S. struggled in the early portion of the final, scoring a 52 in the first end--their lowest score of the 12 ends completed Saturday. That led to a sizable four-point deficit after two ends, 120-116.
A series of bullseyes from Wukie and Kaminski helped cut the lead to 165-163 after three ends, and the lead was further shaved to 192-191 entering the final three arrows. Kaminski's 8 -- though followed by Wukie's 10 and Ellison's 9 -- left the U.S. up just 26 points heading into Italy's final three arrows.
Despite the American loss, the riveting drama of the final gold-medal shots -- aired live across the country --likely earned Olympic archery a healthy portion of new fans in the U.S.
Though Ellison is favored to win gold in the invididual event, he struggled in the initial qualifying rounds Friday, helping leave the U.S. in the fourth-seeded position of the team brackets. He surprisingly failed to record a 10 during the gold medal final.
The U.S. narrowly avoided defeat in the quarterfinals, taking advantage of a poor 53-point final end from Japan to edge the Japanese by a point, 220-219.
Each end consists of six arrows for each team, with each archer shooting once in sequence before allowing the other team's three archers to shoot. The sequence is then repeated. With four ends, the match includes 24 arrows for each team total.
If you're interested in more on the archery competition, here's the CBSSports.com "How to Play the Game" episode on the sport: