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RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil - The U.S. Olympic Archery Team has had several days of practice in the official venue for the Games. Tonight they finished their familiarization - a set practice time that allows them to simulate the different shooting conditions they may face in the next few days, including shooting under stadium lights. As the backdrops were hung and the Olympic Rings installed in the historic venue today, the excitement on the field was palpable and Team USA's confidence radiated.
Mackenzie Brown (Tyler, Texas) shared her enthusiasm online, posting a photo of her first day wearing the Olympic jersey on the field with the Rings high in the sky behind her. She commented: "It's really cool and one of those things I've always been working for and always wanted really bad, to be here in the Olympic Games and to be able to represent my country. For me, it's really awesome to be here."
She added: "Today is our second familiarization day, we are practicing as it gets darker, which is likely the lighting I will be shooting in on qualification. I was here for the test event last fall, but it's a different time of year and things could be different, so this is really good practice to know what to expect."
Zach Garrett (Wellington, Missouri) is also making his Olympic debut in Rio and has admitted feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the Games and what it means to be here, but very happy and pleased with the experience. To stay focused, many archers say they just treat every tournament the same. That sounds like a simple task, but when it's the Olympics, it must be extremely challenging.
Garrett commented: "For me, I remind myself the distance is still 70 meters, the target is still the same size. I remind myself of things that are familiar, and that's comforting, it helps a lot. Obviously there's more pressure and I want to do well - everybody wants to do well. As a general rule of thumb, I think it's smart to do what got you to the place where you are. I try to stick to that and keep it really basic. I phase out as many distractions as possible, while still enjoying that it's the Olympics. I really am enjoying being here, it's an awesome venue, its really pretty and will look great on TV."
Garrett joins two and three time Olympians and London 2012 silver medalists Jake Kaminski (Gainesville, Florida) and Brady Ellison (Globe, Arizona). Ellison has said that in three Games, this is the strongest U.S. team, just by sheer numbers: "This is truly the highest scoring American team we've ever had, and possibly one of the highest scoring teams in the world. Looking at our personal bests in tournaments, you have a 697, a 691, and I think a 682, that's a very high scoring team. The London team from Korea out shot that, and the Korean team here, their personal bests may be higher, but overall we're a team that has tournament scores with the potential to be the highest scores in the world."
Kaminski shares Ellison's confidence in the strength of the team and is also pleased with the venue: "We're working really well together as a team and treating this as a team event, so it's great we're shooting so well together. There's huge improvement in the venue since the test event last fall. The platforms are a lot stronger, it's a lot better laid out; there are still some issues, but the weather is great and it's really comfortable out here. "
"Since we've been here for the test event, we are already very familiar, but there has been much improvement," agreed National Head Coach KiSik Lee. "I think the team is doing great, we're spending a lot of time together and eating meals together. It seems to me they are very happy and enjoying the Games."
Official practice starts tomorrow morning and qualification will begin Friday. Follow worldarchery.org for scores. For more, follow USA Archery on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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