LONDON -- Oak Harbor's Jacob Wukie delivered a bull's-eye to give the U.S. archery team a chance at Olympic gold, but Italy's Michele Frangilli followed with an even bigger one, turning back the Americans on the final arrow shot in a dramatic final Saturday at Lord's Cricket Ground.
The trio of Wukie, Brady Ellison, and Jake Kaminski captured the first medal for the United States in the London Olympics, falling to the Italians, 219-218, to earn a silver medal.
"We've worked so hard prior to this to build a strong team and to train as a team," said Wukie, a 2004 graduate of Fremont Ross. "And so, obviously, it paid off."
It was almost a storybook finish for Wukie, who had a long road to the Olympics and had to battle back from a debilitating illness in the months before the Games to even make the team. His bull's-eye on his final arrow made possible a come-from-behind win. It was his third bull's-eye in his final four shots, a rebound of sorts following a rocky start in which three of his first four shots scored only eight points apiece. Ellison followed with a 9 giving the U.S. 218 points and meaning Italy needed to produce 27 over its final three shots to prevail.
When Frangilli stepped up for his final shot there was "incredible pressure" and he tried to "empty his head a little bit," knowing he needed a 10 for the victory.
"I really tried to find the right technique, and I knew I hit the golden area," he said. "When I heard 10, I was obviously very, very happy."
The United States secured at least a silver medal earlier in the day when it upset top-seed and three-time defending Olympic champion South Korea in the semifinals, 224-219. South Korea took bronze.
The Americans began the day with a 220-219 win over Japan in the quarterfinal.
Wukie, 26, who was born in Massillon but raised in Oak Harbor, learned to shoot by hunting. He won a bow-hunting world championship at the age of 15.
His bid to win another medal begins Tuesday when the individual competition gets under way. Securing the 12th seed in Friday's ranking round, Wukie will face India's Jayanta Talukda in the round of 64. Talukdar won the World Cup in 2009. Ellison, the top-ranked bowman in the world, is seeded 10th, while Kaminski is 18th.
Wukie, the 2009 collegiate national champion at James Madison University in Virginia, faced long odds to even make the team entering the final day of the Olympic trials last month. Trailing by 9 points, Wukie unleashed a masterful performance to overcome Joe Fanchin, 103-101.25. A stomach illness he contracted in December left Wukie weakened, causing him to lose 10 pounds and miss several practices, jeopardizing his chance for making the team. The illness was eventually diagnosed as being caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that is a common cause of ulcers, a diagnosis that was partially reached by his father, Dr. John Wukie, an emergency room physician in Fremont.
Wukie, who was an alternate for the 2008 Olympic team, is a Lake Erie charter boat captain.
The United States was ranked No. 1 in the world entering the Olympics but was seeded fourth after Friday's ranking round. The silver medal was a dramatic improvement over the team's 10th-place finish at the 2008 Olympics.
"I wasn't disappointed that we got a silver. I was, on the inside, very, very ecstatic that we became Olympic medalists," Ellison said. "The more it's around my neck, I mean, this thing has some weight to it. It sets in. We are Olympic medalists -- and it doesn't matter the color."
And the significance of being the first American medalists at the 2012 Games was not lost on them.
"If that's all we're known for for the rest of our lives, I think we'll all be pretty proud of that," Ellison said.
In their victory over South Korea in the semifinal, the Americans started slowly but were able to come back, 224-219. Not the case against the Italians. The Americans pulled within 165-163 at the end of the third round.
One thing that surprised Wukie and his American teammates: Yes, those Olympic medals have some heft.
Ellison quipped that he "could do a workout with this thing," as his teammates looked down at the medals dangling from their necks.
And they'll all keep them in the same place: Their respective sock drawers.
"It's not all that life is about," Kaminski said. "It's something that I'm going to keep close to me. And I don't need to shout about it."