Jacob Wukie’s return fuels USA’s push for full team quota

Jacob Wukie shoots at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“To say that there is no pressure, I think it’s ignorant,” Brady Ellison said ahead of Saturday’s final qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The USA is one of 38 countries competing for three recurve men’s team spots in Paris. Ellison’s individual place is secure – ever since he was officially nominated to full the ticket that he qualified by winning the worlds – but the reigning world number one will look to upgrade to a team quota so two additional USA archers can join him in Japan. 

“You have to shoot great, you have to be in the top three and there are a lot of teams, a lot of matches to get through,” Ellison said. “Everybody on the field has the mindset that it’s the last chance. At this point, you get there or you don’t. Whoever handles that attitude better, does better.”

Ellison is accompanied by youngster Jack Williams and veteran Jacob Wukie in Paris.

Thirty-five-year-old Wukie is back in the mix after a spell away from the sport. But there’s a successful history – nine years ago, in 2012, Ellison and Wukie won a team silver together at the Olympics in London.

Williams, 21, earned a spot on the team during Wukie’s absence, injecting a shot of youthful energy along with their international experience.

“Wukie and I had success, but so have Jack and I,” Ellison said. “Experience-wise, I think we have a very experienced team mentally. We just all need to come together and shoot some 10s.”

The USA recurve men’s team has won back-to-back silver medals at the Olympics. Brady’s the only returning archer from those squads. And as talented as Ellison is, the USA will need strong contributions from all three members if it wants to secure a team quota this weekend.

Team USA celebrates its silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Wukie’s ability to regain his level from nearly a decade ago could make the difference. 

“It's exciting! It’s been a long time,” he said. “I’m back and shooting at the World Cup. I'm enjoying being here. It's good to see everybody.”

Wukie already astonished at the Team USA Olympic trials in Salt Lake City, out-performing more recent members of the international team to win his place at this event – and potentially at the Games – alongside Brady and Jack. He credited striking a proper balance between family and work for his surprise return.

“I didn’t necessarily have a plan to come back, but I was always keeping it in mind,” he said. “Once I was able to have a better schedule to work, train and also travel, it made more sense. That’s why I decided to come back.”

The prospect of returning to the Olympics after such a long break is an exciting one for Wukie – and his teammates. He isn't a newcomer, but it has been a while. Still, he knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level. 

“There’s always pressure, but we have worked really hard the past couple of weeks as a team,” Jacob said. “It’s working really well, we are communicating really well, everybody is shooting well. Obviously, there’s pressure but, I’m feeling pretty good about it.”

The last three men’s team quota places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be won on Saturday at the final qualifier.