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NEWBERRY, Florida - With Olympic qualifications on the line, USA Archery didn't leave anything to chance: After an intensive two-stage Team Trials process, USA Archery has selected its recurve team for the World Archery Championships in Copenhagen this July. The squad will also represent Team USA at the Pan American Games.
The adult recurve team boasts two world-class veterans: five-time Olympian and Olympic bronze medalist Khatuna Lorig - and Brady Ellison, a two time Olympian who boasts an Olympic silver medal and an unprecedented three World Cup Final titles.
That veteran talent will help guide less experienced - but no less talented - members of the team, with spots for Rio 2016 hanging in the balance. Teams that finish in the top eight at the World Archery Championships will earn three precious spots for the upcoming Olympic Games, and every country will be bringing its best talent to the field.
Lorig led this team selection event on the women's side. This "Hunger Games" coach, who tutored Jennifer Lawrence for her role as Katniss Everdeen, was also Team USA's highest individual finisher at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where Lorig finished fourth.
She's joined by relative newcomers Ariel Gibilaro and LaNola Pritchard, both of whom are USA Archery Resident Athletes with World Cup and World Championships experience in youth and indoor events. Mackenzie Brown just took a fourth place finish, and the Alternate spot for the women's team.
"I'm very excited. And I'm just a little surprised," Pritchard said. "I wasn't expecting to make the team today. I was just going to shoot my best, and making the team is a very strong plus. I feel great about my teammates. Ariel and I have been friends for awhile, and Khatuna is just an awesome competitor and amazing friend. I feel like our team is going to do very well."
Gibilaro echoed her thoughts, saying she'd been personally focused on a good mental game and strong shot execution. "I think we're going to do very well at the World Championships, the Pan Ams and every other tournament we go to." Her goal? "To win a gold medal at the World Championships and place well at the upcoming Olympic Trials."
Ellison was a gold medal favorite in London, winning medal after medal at World Cup and World Championship events through 2012. Ellison was sidelined by a broken right hand in 2013, but his 2014 wins included two gold medals at the World Archery Field Championships, and his third World Cup Final title. He'll be joined on the squad by Zach Garrett and Collin Klimitchek, two rising stars who are getting lots of buzz from archery fans.
"It's nice to have the hard work validated," said Garrett, who is becoming well known for his strong work ethic.
Just missing the team: Alternate and Olympic silver medalist Jake Kaminski, whom many felt was a shoo-in for a spot on this squad. Just a quarter of a point was all that separated Klimitchek and Kaminski, who were nearly tied for that last spot by the final match of yesterday's competition.
"I knew it was really close," explained Klimitchek. "I knew it was probably going to come down to arrow average, so that's really all I tried to focus on, whether I won or lost the matches, just making the best shot that I could make."
Ellison said he was excited to make what will be his twelfth World Championship team, and his third Pan Am Games Team. "The last couple of weeks, I've really been figuring out the shot I want to shoot, and what I need to be working on that I've been missing. I have a bow that's shooting extremely well, and it's all coming together right now. I'm excited for this year, I'm excited for [the World Cup in] China next week, and I think this is going to be another breakout year for me. I really do."
"I'm very proud of everyone who made the team today," said National Head Coach KiSik Lee. "I feel a bit sorry for the alternate archers, who missed the team by a quarter point and a half point difference, which is very small. But I'm very happy for the archers who made the team; they can train together every day, at the same place, and that will help our team to perform very well. We have a mission to qualify our spots for the Olympics at this World Championships, and this team can complete that mission."
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