The last day of the archery marked one of the best competitions within recent memory. For some, the first few stages gave a dash of glory through upsets and clutch shooting. For others, it was a forgettable occasion, under-performing under the stressful and rigorous environment that is Rio.
In all its glory one last time, the final shootouts proved to be less dramatic, rather a showcase of pure talent by some of the best in the world. Mauro Nespoli was one of those hawk-eyed marksmen, capping a 6-0 sweep of Riau Ega Agatha. Agatha was the frontman to upset number one archer Kim Wujin, so expectations were anything but subtle for the Indonesian.
Nespoli fared worse in his next match of the morning, rivaling an in-form Jean-Charles Valladont who easily defeated Witthaya Thamwong 6-0. Valladont started off down 2-0, but came roaring back scoring six out of nine arrows as perfect tens. With the duel going into shootout, Nespoli hoped to pull a little luck from the 2012 games where his Italy squad won gold on the final shot. But Valladont was having none of it, shooting ten again for spot in the semifinals.
Meanwhile Indian favorite, Atanu Das, failed to win one over on South Korean Lee Seungyun. While Lee was 12th ranked in the men’s individual, his grand performance in the team competition proved him to be much better, and it showed with a last second win against Das. In the fifth set, Lee hit a ten on his third arrow for the lead, and a tie on the next end signaled a win.
His efforts brought him to a hungry Sjef van den Berg, who stole the victory thanks to his 30 point perfect finish for a 6-4 ending. Unfortunately, the Dutch archer gave into Valladont 7-4, leading the latter to a finals appearance.
As for his opponent, the journey started with American Brady Ellison, who has been vying for a gold at the past three Olympic games. Ellison launched his march by beating teammate Zach Garrett, in which neither contestant had a coach for guidance. On raw skill Ellison cruised past Furukawa Takahuru 6-2, and now only stood one man away from a shot at gold.
That one man was Ku Bonchan, one of the three dominant South Korean archers and as big of an obstacle as the Amazon rainforest. He had come hot off the stove from a one point win over Taylor Worth and it carried into his battle with Ellison.
The American fought with everything he had, tying the first three sets, a feat rarely seen in the sport. Even as he lost the fourth it was by a mere point, only to come back and win the next by the same differential. With such a matched level of dexterity, both men had one more shot to testify their case for the final. With shoulders broad and eyes focused, Ku landed a nine that would win him the final spot, shattering the dreams of Ellison again in the same year.
So, as he walked away a victor, Ellison would not return empty handed. A bronze medal was up for grabs and one defeat didn’t stumble him, instead lighting his passionate fire that many have witnessed throughout his career. Sjef van den Berg stood little chance against the caliber of Ellison, dropping two sets in a row for the 6-2 loss, giving his opponent a smile along with his token.
But all eyes were on Ku and Valladont for the end of this year’s archery fiasco. An eighth seed versus a sixth seed. The South Korean hopeful took a hug 5-1 lead, sending a feeling of nervousness that appeared visible in Valladont’s shooting. Yet all hope was not lost, seeing the Frenchman hit 29 for two points added onto his total. Sadly, it faded quickly into two eights which Ku diffused with ease, shooting nine for a gold medal.
For South Korea, it was an unforgettable tournament as they took all four gold medals, no doubt boasting the best shooters in the world.