LONDON — Jake Kaminski stares down his left arm and can see the target in the distance, nearly 230 feet away. In the brief instant before firing his arrow, Kaminski focuses on the hand wrapped around the bow, making sure it’s steady and reminding himself why he’s there.
Where Kaminski’s thumb meets his index finger, he’s tattooed the words, “I am.” It’s an affirmation, he says, that keeps him focused in the most stressful of moments. I am an archer . . . I am a husband . . . I am an Olympian . . .
Following Saturday’s competition at the Summer Games, Kaminski is now a medalist, too. Kaminski and teammates Brady Ellison and Jacob Wukie won the first Olympic medals for the United States, taking silver in the drama-packed men’s archery team event at the historic Lord’s Cricket Ground.
“I feel good, although I wish this medal had been a different color,” said Ellison, 23.
Italy won gold with its 219-218 decision, securing the victory on the day’s final arrow. Heading into the last round, the U.S. archers trailed by two points with six arrows remaining for both teams.
After Kaminski scored a 10, Wukie and Ellison followed with 9s. The Italians shot 9-10-8, and the United States trailed by just one heading into the final rotation. Italy’s Michele Frangilli aimed the last arrow, needing a 9 to tie the Americans. He scored a 10, securing Italy its first-ever gold in the event.
“I don’t know what happened,” a weeping Frangilli said later. “I was just shooting my arrow. I don’t know what to say. I had a few seconds left. I tried to give all I had to give.”
The boisterous crowd hung on each arrow in one of sport’s most notable venues. Lord’s Cricket Ground is nearly 200 years old and is widely referred to as the “home of cricket.” On Saturday it provided the backdrop to a series of exciting archery clashes.
The day’s biggest surprise perhaps was the bronze medal-winner, South Korea, which had won gold at the last three Summer Olympics. South Korea is so dominant that the top four teams in Saturday’s competition featured coaches of South Korean descent.
The United States upset South Korea in the semifinal round, 224-219.
“Every reporter that came up and talked to us said Korea’s impossible to beat,” Ellison said. “ ‘Do you guys think you can do it?’ The media definitely helped us be, like, ‘Yeah, we can. Quit telling us we can’t.’ ”
The three American archers are close-knit and not lacking in confidence. The trio lived together and spent countless hours with each other at the Chula Vista, Calif., training facility.
“Despite coming away with a silver, nobody works and communicates the way we do,” Kaminski said. “We’re the toughest team out there.”
Following the competition, each archer paraded through an obstacle course of reporters and television cameras. They fingered their new prizes, stealing quick glances to confirm the day’s events had actually happened. The silver disc weighs nearly a pound, but Kaminski certainly wasn’t going to complain about the extra weight tugging at his neck.
“I read somewhere that each medal takes 10 hours to make,” said the 23-year-old archer. “So it’s awesome to have such an amazing piece of craftsmanship.”
The trio knew before they set foot on the medal stand that they’d managed to win before Ryan Lochte hit the pool or Kobe Bryant hit the basketball court. They hope their good fortune at the London Games proves to be contagious.
“Hopefully, it’s a good sign for a great games for the U.S.,” Ellison said. “We’re just happy to be the front-runners to help lead the charge.”
All three archers will return to the Lord’s Cricket Ground for the individual competition on Friday.
Photos: Scenes from the London Olympics