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Shanghai, China - Following a 2011 season in which U.S. archers climbed atop the world rankings in seven out of ten categories, Team USA addressed the question of whether they could maintain that level of excellence by bringing home seven medals from the first stage of the Archery World Cup, showing the world that they've come to play.
In compound team eliminations, the U.S. squad was dominant, with the trio of Erika Anschutz (NE), Jamie Van Natta (OH) and Christie Colin (PA) shooting their way to a berth in the gold medal match versus a strong Russian team featuring World Champion Albina Loginova. Determined to hold on to their number one world ranking, the U.S. team posted a 224 to Russia's 218, winning the gold for their seventh World Cup meeting with Russia. "Among the team, this is actually our first or second tournament of the season," Anschutz explained to World Archery Communications. "Our indoor season is long and important in the USA. So we felt actually a bit rusty, but this is definitely a good start. It is always a challenge to shoot against Russia but overall we shot as well as we hoped to."
For the men, Reo Wilde (ID), Braden Gellenthien (VA) and Dave Cousins (ME) qualified number one as a team, and took match after match to clinch their seat in the final versus France. The American team took a three point lead after their first end, and never looked back, increasing the margin to a 238-229 for the win. Addressing the speculation about the possibility that the squad could have tied their own world record, Cousins commented to World Archery Communications: "I believe the archers on the field should not [think] about a world record. We need to focus on the process, on the pure elements of shooting, not the results. Because if you shoot a 9...and think 'I just missed the world record,' that's the best way to be thrown out of your game and lose everything."
Van Natta and Wilde also made their own gold medal attempt, facing France in the compound mixed team gold medal match. At the halfway point, the U.S. team held a four point lead, but France mounted a successful comeback, eventually overtaking Van Natta and Wilde by a 153-152 advantage to give Team USA the silver.
In the individual finals, it was USA's Diane Watson (FL) and Wilde who took the hardware after tough matches with Great Britain's Danielle Brown and Mexico's Julio Fierro, respectively. Watson was faced with a difficult opponent in Brown, who was not only the Paralympic champion in Beijing but also one of the world's top able-bodied archers, winning the Commonwealth Games and having several strong World Cup finishes to her credit. Watson, a World Cup medalist and team World Champion, tied the third and fourth ends with her opponent, ending the match in a 143-all draw. In the shoot-off, Watson kept her poise, shooting a nine to Brown's eight to take the bronze medal.
Wilde's match versus Fierro was their fourth meeting in two years, all of which Wilde has won. Wilde opened the match with a three point lead in the first end, which he increased to a 59-54 margin after the second. Never looking back, Wilde closed the door on his opponent with a 147-138 to win the gold medal. In his post-event interview, he had good advice for other archers: "If you focus on the opponent you may actually find yourself too close to him suddenly (in terms of score). And then you are in trouble," he explained. Wilde continued: "When I arrive, I will only spend one day at home and then fly to Florida for a U.S. ranking event. So I really want to thank my wife for her great support and understanding."
With their wins, the U.S. compound archers brought the total medal count to seven, complimenting an individual gold won by Brady Ellison (AZ) on the men's recurve side, and a very significant team gold taken by Ellison, Jacob Wukie (OH) and Joe Fanchin (CA).
Though the recurve men's team reached the gold medal match with France, it was after winning a significant semifinal tiebreaker win over Korea, proving that Team USA is a strong medal contender for the upcoming Olympic Games in London. In that match, it was a 227-227 draw for the U.S. and Korean teams; in the pressure-cooker tiebreaker, the U.S. team remained strong enough to shoot a 29 when it counted to Korea's 26, giving Wukie, Ellison and Fanchin a spot in the gold medal contest versus France. That match was a 225-220 gold medal win for USA.
Ellison's individual match, versus Ukraine's Dmytro Hrachov, was anything but a foregone conclusion, with number five world ranked Hrachov having shot very strong scores throughout all of his individual elimination matches. Ellison, seemingly determined to go into the Olympic Games atop the world rankings, took the gold medal from Hrachov in straight sets, shooting a 6-0. With his finish, Ellison has won his "fourth major," taking the gold medal in each of the four locations hosting a World Cup stage: Shanghai, Porec, Antalya and Ogden.
The U.S. recurve women's team of Khatuna Lorig (CA), Jennifer Nichols (TX) and Miranda Leek (IA) also showed promise for the upcoming season, with Leek reaching a personal-best fourth place finish after a tough bronze medal match against Korea's Hyeonju Choi. The U.S. recurve women took a fifth place finish in the team event, winning their 1/8 match versus Belarus but facing a very difficult opponent in the quarterfinals versus multi-time Olympic champion Korea.
In the mixed team event, Ellison and Lorig faced the team from China, who shot a 143 to USA's 141 to content the U.S. recurve mixed team with a fourth place finish. Complete scores from the Shanghai World Cup are available at http://www.archery.org.
The coming weeks are packed with national and international events for Team USA archers. Many of the U.S. team members will travel to Newberry, Florida this week for the Easton Foundations Gator Cup, a USAT Qualifier Series Event. Beginning April 23, thirty two Olympic Hopefuls will compete in the second of three U.S. Olympic Team Trials events for archery, and Team USA will pick up with the second stage of the World Cup in Antalya, Turkey, beginning May 1.
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