The USA team beat Japan in the quarter-finals, then edged out defending team champions Korea in the semi-finals, and went on to face Italy in the gold-medal match to make Jake Kaminski one of the first medallists for the USA in the 2012 Olympics. In the final, both teams shot extremely well, making the match come down to the last arrow.
The night after the team finals, Jake was quoted as saying, “We just won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics. I cannot convey the feelings I am having right now. This was an incredible journey and I’m delighted to share it with my teammates Jacob Wukie and Brady Ellison representing the USA here in London. We shot so well as a team. There was not really a single shot that can be said to keep us from the gold collectively as a team. We shot the best we ever had. All of the scores across the entire field were lower than expected attesting to the adverse conditions here in London. Congratulations to my teammates and I hope this sets the stage for all Olympians from Team USA. This is the first medal that the USA has won in London. We won as a team and enjoyed it as a team.”
JDG: What were your thoughts regarding shooting the first arrow of the Olympic Games?
JK: My first thought was about everything that I’ve always learned in training. Brady did a great job in telling us what to expect as far as how many cameras there would be. So when I actually got there and was in full draw, I was surprised there weren’t more camera sounds. I felt very prepared and comfortable. My goal and main focus was to make a strong first shot, so we would able to read the wind and build everything else out of that shot.
JDG: On 28 July, the day of the team finals, you knew you could win the first medal for the USA. Was the first medal an extra motivation factor or extra pressure?
JK: All motivation. Our goal was to not put pressure on ourselves, because we were ranked number one in the world and we were expected to do well by the US delegation. Having the opportunity to win the first medal of our country was more of a motivating factor for us to go represent, shoot the best we could, hope for the best, and enjoy the moment.
JDG: How did you spend the hours before the team finals?
JK: Before the finals, we kept shooting and tried to not be distracted by our feelings or the pressure of being at the Olympic Games. We tried not to think about the possibility of winning a medal. My goal was to try to relax and enjoy. After shooting the ranking round, my first thought was that it was already a big victory to be an Olympian.
JDG: Your victory over Korea in the semi-finals was a surprise to many people…
JK: Apparently the media didn’t look at anything except the Olympic Games and World Championships. The media kept asking us if the Koreans were unbeatable and if we had a chance. We were ranked number one in the world for a reason. The media was more motivation to go and beat them. We celebrated the medal a lot on the field. This was my first Olympics and therefore my first medal. Even though we celebrated before the gold medal match, we knew we could still bring our focus back when it was required.
JDG: Could you describe your emotions when you realised you had won a medal?
JK: There are a lot of different feelings, from complete relief to excitement and joy. The last six years of professional dedication to training finally paid off. The feeling was similar when I made the US Olympic team, but winning a medal made the emotion exponentially higher. After we beat Korea on the last arrow, we all celebrated as a team. Emotions were high. We all shed a tear, even Coach Lee did. I turned to my family in the stands, I looked at my wife as the last arrow was shot or after I knew we won the match and I saw her burst into tears. My family members were so excited, jumping up and down in the stands; everybody was so happy.
JK: In my opinion it is easier to shoot well in the team rounds. If you make a mistake you have two team members to make up for it. We work really well together. We discuss every arrow and how to adjust. I have so much confidence in my teammates. Even while I am at full draw, if they tell me to aim off in a different position or if the wind switches, I trust what they are saying. The mental aspect of the team competition forces you to shoot well. I have had some successes individually, but in the individual rounds there are a lot more opportunities for mistakes.
JDG: Who is the leader of your team?
JK: Each of us is a leader in our own way. Wukie is the leader who keeps us calm and grounded. Brady is the leader who has competed in an Olympic Games before. My teammates rely on me to lead the team as far as shooting the first arrow. Even Coach Lee was a leader in the way he gave us good insight on the wind. We all came together as one team and led it together as one whole team.
JDG: Has the silver medal – the first podium for the USA – brought you more exposure?
JK: The medal brought us a lot of exposure. I think it had a lot to do with all the books and movies featuring archery recently. As a result of getting the first medal, we were on live TV in the United States. According to NBC, we had the most fan satisfaction and viewers of any other sports on the first week of Olympic competitions.
JDG: Does being active on social media increase your opportunities as an athlete?
JK: Yes. It all started when Kellogg’s decided to pick an archer for their commercial and asked for me. The commercial made me aware there are a lot of other people watching, and gave me motivation to start actively using Facebook and Twitter. Using these platforms gives me exposure and helps bring other sponsors and revenues. We don’t get as much support and funding in the United States as in other countries. We earn our money from winning, which is nerve- racking and puts a lot of pressure on us. I find it important to tactically share information so we can generate more interest in archery, not only for sponsors, but also to get people involved in our sport. I think social media makes it easier for the public to follow some of the less mainstream sports.
JDG: Now that the Olympic Games are over how have you kept yourself busy?
JK: The week after I competed, I had family members in London. We went sightseeing and celebrated a little bit. I went to a few other matches and supported Americans competing in other sports. I saw the men’s basketball semi-final and gold medal match, as well as the all-American women’s beach volleyball final and the women’s indoor volleyball gold medal final. I tried to take in the city and enjoy the games. There were other athletes supporting us during our competition. I wanted to go back and to do the same for athletes outside of my sport.
The Games overall were a lot of fun. I worked so hard and long for the opportunity to go. I can’t believe it’s already over. I wish the next Olympic Games could start tomorrow! Four years is a long way to wait. I’m excited … maybe even more excited than I was before.
JDG: Where is your medal?
JK: I keep the medal in my pocket. I can pull it out and show people who congratulate me. The medal is the credential that shows you’re just as good as any other athlete. Living at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego, there are a lot of Olympians. Sometimes, being an archer, I didn’t feel like we were as important as the track and field athletes. Once we got to the Games none of it mattered. The best feeling is walking around the Olympic Village knowing I have won a medal. Everyone you meet get excited about the medal. Posting the medal on Twitter and Facebook gives other people at home a chance to be a part of my win.
JK: I don’t know. I’m going to start the ‘real life’. I’ll still compete but I want to develop a personal brand, a personal image, and to make it affordable to go around the world without worrying about money. I want to be able to travel with my wife – last year I travelled 170 days. My next goal is to have a normal life and buy a house.
JDG: What brings you to the Field Archery World Championships in Val d’Isère?
JK: Although Val d’Isère might not be as exciting as the Olympic Games, this is a World Championship and there is a title to be won. There isn’t as much pressure so I’m here to enjoy, shoot the best I can, and see what happens.
JDG: Do you have any messages or advice to share with the aspiring archers?
JK: Don’t give up. Anything is possible. I never gave up even though it was hard and difficult to make the team. In the end, it was definitely worth the struggle. Follow us on social media, as well as USA archery and World Archery. These platforms are a large reason we have the opportunity to compete.