By Ian Ransom
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Three days after taking their second silver medal in the men’s team event at the Olympics, Americans Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski shared another embrace tinged with regret after facing off in the individual tournament on Tuesday.
As both friends and top medal contenders in Rio, the pair had the misfortune to be drawn in the same quarter following the lottery of the ranking round on Friday.
They met in the relative cool of the late afternoon at the Sambodromo, having disposed of their first round opponents without too much fuss.
Former world champion Ellison prevailed 6-2 in a high-quality duel, his victory set up by a brilliant run of six perfect scores of 10.
On the brink of defeat, Kaminski dug deep to put 28 on the board with his three arrows in the final set but Ellison duly pipped him by a point to close it out.
“You know, it sucks,” three-time Olympian Ellison, who won the first of his two team silver medals with Kaminski at the 2012 London Games, told reporters. “(It’s) not really fun to shoot against a team mate at the Games.
“We want everyone to go forward and get a chance at the medal on the final day, but Jake and I drew each other and at least it was guaranteed for one guy to go through.
“That’s all that counts — if we still have an American in.”
Athletes in the one-on-one duels of the individual event are usually joined on the shooting platform by coaches offering tips and encouragement.
But the Team USA staff withdrew from the battle field and Ellison and Kaminski went head-to-head alone.
“The coaches felt that we would turn it into a national tournament,” added 27-year-old Ellison.
“Be easier for both of us to shoot like we were back home. Just go out there and beat each other up.”
On Saturday, Ellison and Kaminski had hoped to claim the team gold they felt eluded them at the London Games, when they were off their best against champions Italy in the title-decider.
Teamed up with Olympic debutant Zach Garrett in Rio, the three shot well in Saturday’s final but could do nothing to stop an inspired South Korea team from claiming the title.
Ellison’s next match may also end up bitter-sweet for Team USA, with world number three Garrett a likely third-round opponent.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)