Best of 2016: The teams of the year

The team competition in archery pits two squads of three (or two pairs in the case of the mixed team event) against each other in head-to-head competition. The biggest stage in 2016 was the Olympics in Rio – and it’s where certain teams shone.

1. Korea’s recurve women

The greatest ongoing streak in Olympic history? Only the USA 4x100 men’s swimming relay run of Olympic Champion titles is longer, with nine golds in a row since 1984, but they can’t say that they have a perfect record in the entire history of an event.

Korea can.

The eighth team gold in a row may have seemed like a formality, but in reality it was anything but. The 2015 season was not entirely dominant for the ladies in white; they lost several major finals and didn’t seem entirely comfortable at the Rio test event.

After the brutal shakedown of the selection tournament, Choi Misun, Ki Bo Bae and Chang Hye Jin stuck to the script – at least in public – that the focus would be entirely on securing that coveted team gold medal. And so it proved; neither the men’s or the women’s teams lost in top-level competition in 2016, and the intimidating reputation just grew.

Yun Mi Jin, the double gold medallist at Sydney 2000, said before the Olympics in Rio: “The biggest strength in Korean archery remains being able to power through the competition without letting up, never releasing the pressure.”

It was true in Rio as so often before, the women opening their semifinal with an emphatic wall of six 10s – six of the 26 maximums they drilled on finals day. You could just start to sense the Korean nerves and the weight of expectation in the final, but Russia hadn’t brought nearly enough to the party, and the eighth crown was – deservedly – Korea’s.

The men’s team were amazing, too – wait for the match of the year list for their final to come into focus – but the women take the prize for performing under even greater pressure.

In the individual competition, the tournament went off the expected script. But as so many times before, collectively the Korean women simply had too much strength in depth, too much in reserve. It was another chapter in an truly extraordinary sporting story.

2. USA’s recurve men

After *that* incredible men’s team final in Rio, Brady Ellison was moved to say: “Last time out (in London), I felt we lost the gold. This time, we won the silver.”

Despite indifferent Hyundai Archery World Cup stage performances in 2016, the US men were bullish before Rio, but proved their collective quality, qualifying second and crushing China 6-0 in the semi – to set up the big showdown with Korea. The USA lost despite putting in sets of 57, 57 and 56. It seems fair to say they would have beaten any other team in the world in that match on that day.

Afterwards the States men bowed to the Korean team on the finals field, the most public display of the respect shown between teams at the highest level – and customary for the Koreans, not the Americans – and followed that with the decision, when forced to face each other in the individual events, to not have their coach on the field. A sign of the respect shown for each other.

3. Perfect 160

In a year dominated by Olympic activities, an Italian mixed team of Marcella Tonioli and Federico Pagnoni secured a perfect world record in pairs matchplay. In the quarterfinals of the Hyundai Archery World Cup stage in Antalya, the duo scored 160 out of a possible 160 points, with 6Xs.

“We are in the same team in Italy, so we’re comfortable shooting together. We like shooting together,” she added. Marcella and Federico both represent Polisportiva Dilettantistica Adrense Sezione Arcieri Franciacorta at home.

Honourable mentions

Chinese Taipei’s recurve women: Much was expected of the blue shirts this year, and they set out their stall early by taking the first outdoor title of the year in Shanghai, but then sank ignominiously in Medellin.

Qualifying fourth in Rio, they made the comeback of the day in a quarterfinal against Mexico after being 4-0 down, but the draw meant they had to face Korea in the semifinals. They managed to regroup in the bronze match against Italy to take a medal, 5-3.

The talent is clearly there – if they can just find more consistency in the next few years, they could seriously threaten to finally knock the white shirts off the top step in Tokyo.

Australia’s recurve men: Had not shone on the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit in 2016, then produced a string of solid performances in the Sambodromo to take a slightly unexpected but well-deserved bronze. It was the first archery team medal in the nation’s Olympic history.

Brazil’s recurve men: Fought hard and made a final in Antalya following a strong 2015 World Archery championships. Showed incredible spirit and gave everyone a good show in Rio and still seem keen to mark their mark on the world.

As Bernardo Oliveira said afterwards: “There are many athletes that dream about competing at the Olympics but only a few of them get the chance to do it at home. If there’s anything I will remember, I think it would be the match with the team where I shot a 10 and the crowd went crazy. Hearing my name and Brazil so loud, wow, that will remain with me forever.”

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