USA dominates Wroclaw recurve team events

16 August 2015
Wroclaw (POL)
The USA had never won a recurve women’s team gold medal on the Archery World Cup circuit before.

At Wroclaw 2015, the USA recurve teams were dominant.

The nation’s recurve women made a surprising piece of history – becoming the first team to crest the podium on the Archery World Cup circuit. It took some research to confirm, but the USA had never before won a gold medal in the division in the 10-year lifespan of the tour.

Their win over Georgia was matched just a few minutes later, when the touted USA men – who qualified one, two and three individually at the event – beat Germany in four sets.

Khatuna Lorig, five-time Olympian and shooting in red, was on the field representing the USA against the country in which she was born in the recurve women’s final. No nostalgia on show there, though.

She, La Nola Pritchard and anchor Mackenzie Brown were tighter on the target from the very start.

“I watched the match before to see if I could see which way the wind was going,” said Pritchard, who shot first in the trio’s rotation, with Khatuna following her. “When I stepped up there first, it was my job to put the first shot out there, get everyone started.”

They took advantage of a pair of Georgian sevens in the first set to jump to a 2-0 lead.

The second set went the same way, 54-51 to the US girls – but the Georgian women, led by 2011 world silver medallist Kristine Esebua, paired with Baku 2015 mixed team bronze medallist Khatuna Narimanidze and Yulia Lobzhenidze, upped their game in the third.

After Lobzhenidze started with a seven, the Georgians kept the back five arrows in gold – putting the pressure on a USA squad that had started with 9-9-8.

Their response was sublime.

Pritchard, who said she’d been “working on her timing” a lot since Copenhagen, put in a 10, then Lorig matched the arrow.

Mackenzie Brown, who had looked to be trying to steer her arrows from the shooting line through the duration of the match, needed a nine to seal a win. She, too, put in a 10. A perfect 30 to finish, and a straight-set victory in the Wroclaw team final.

“I found my shot, and we all started flowing together – and it just went really well together,” said Pritchard. Brown added that the competitive ladies support each other and “match well together”.

Esebua, who collected world championship silver at Turin 2011, said she was dissatisfied, “because we didn’t really give the USA a good fight. We didn’t take our chances. I’m going for a bronze medal later on, so I’m going to look at what happened here and make sure it doesn’t happen for me later on.”

Mackenzie Brown also shoots again on recurve Sunday in Wroclaw, for her first individual international gold medal.

The USA men’s individual finalist, Zach Garrett, wasn’t on the field for the team medal match. He qualified lowest of the four from the squad at the event, while Collin Klimitchek, Sean McLaughlin and Brady Ellison ranked as the first, second and third seeds, respectively.

Together, it added up to a clear top seeding in the team event, too.

The trio swept through their first two matches, needed a shoot-off to beat China in the semifinal – which they won convincingly – and faced an alternate German men’s team in the final.

With only Florian Kahllund remaining from the line-up that shot in Copenhagen two weeks prior to Wroclaw, the team’s results on the target were much improved. A pair of 55-point sets to start the match were solid, but still not enough to run with the USA men.

After two sets, Ellison, Klimitchek and McLaughlin were 3-1 up.

Germany shot a 56 in the third, then the Americans had 47 with five arrows shot. Brady Ellison, third on the line for the pressure shot, needed a 10 to win – but managed a nine, just out.

The match went to 4-2, with the USA men needing just a final set draw to take the win, and Brady found himself in a similar situation with the last arrow of the match. He needed a nine to bring the team total to 54 and match the German’s effort.

He wouldn’t be denied. Brady took a deep breath, drew, released and willed his shot into the 10.

A characteristic roar from the three time Archery World Cup Final Champion, and the USA won its first recurve men’s team gold medal since Ellison’s powerhouse stretch in 2010-’12. The strength of the squad, he said, was down to shooting “well at the right time” – something that’s become increasingly important with the introduction of set play into recurve competition.

McLaughlin, the reserve for Copenhagen and fourth member of the squad, who supplanted Garrett to shoot in the team event, said that communication was key to the team’s success.

“Collin did great, he would come off and tell us where it was aiming,” he explained. “If it was a good shot it meant Brady and I knew what we needed to do, where we needed to go.”

“If one of us has a rough end, the other two are always there to pick ’em up,” added Collin, who didn’t have a rough end at all – he was the top scorer of the three, shooting five straight 10s through the middle of the bout.

German coach Oliver Haidn was impressed with his team: “The USA were very strong, especially Collin. We knew it was a difficult task. This is the first time a German team has ranked in the medals at a World Cup,” he said. “We can go home and hold our heads up high.”

The highest heads, though, will be from a USA recurve squad that dominated the team events at the third stage of the 2015 Archery World Cup.