At London 2012, the Italian recurve men’s team beat the USA to gold.
Article by Guido Lo Giudice.
From Lord’s Cricket Ground in London to the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro. Four years have passed since the Italian men took Olympic gold, and they will have the tough task of defending the medal in Brazil.
The pivotal 10 that Michele Frangilli shot with the very last arrow of the final, with teammates Mauro Nespoli and Marco Galiazzo watching on, against the USA, is still vibrant in Italian minds. But in Rio, the team won’t quite be the same.
Italy was qualified for the Games thanks to the silver medal it won at the Copenhagen 2015 World Archery Championships. In Denmark, the line-up included Nespoli, Frangilli and David Pasqualucci – a junior athlete in his worlds debut.
After the last Hyundai Archery World Cup stage of 2016, in Antalya, Italian head coach Wietse van Alten named Pasqualucci and Nespoli to the Italian Olympic team – and brought in Galiazzo, the Athens 2004 individual Olympic Champion, to join them.
Can they repeat the London feat?
“At London, we weren’t the front runners and this has to have been an advantage. Even here in Brazil, we’re not the favourite team. That’s why we hope it might produce the same effect,” said Marco.
Nespoli pointed out that, for the first time, he won’t be the youngest athlete in the team.
“David is full of enthusiasm and this is a positive factor for the team,” he added. “In four years, archery has changed radically. Those who used to set big points now get even better results, and those who used to not get the higher scores now know how to reach them.”
“The bar is set high, but we’ll try to reach that bar, set by our track record.”
Past experience says that Italy gives its best in critical moments.
After two individual bronze medals, won by Giancarlo Ferrari at Montreal 1976 and Munich 1980, then a gap, Italians have climbed the podium at each of the last five editions of the Games.
It was a bronze at Atlanta 1996, a silver in Sydney (2000), individual gold – courtesy of Galiazzo – at Athens 2004, another team silver in Beijing in 2008 and then the fabulous first place in London…
…but with all these Olympic medals, there is expectation on this Italian team in Rio.
“I wasn’t in London and I don’t feel pressure to win in Rio,” said Pasqualucci. “Repeating past accomplishments doesn’t fall only on us, but also on our opponents’ performances.”
“Everyone is here in Rio to win. We have been working hard, we’ll give our best – but we’ll only know if that’s enough at the very end of the tournament.”
Nespoli added that after his Beijing team silver and London team gold, he wanted to give fans another reason to celebrate.
“We know it will be difficult,” he said: “but predictions are pointless now.”
“Pressure is a relative factor. There are teams worse off than us! The Korean women have a winning streak of seven consecutive Games…”
Compared to earlier Olympics, the Italian team arrived earlier in Brazil. It offered the chance to become perfectly accustomed to local conditions.
The shooting environment is different, compared to London, in terms of climate, wind and, especially, light. Some of the matches will be conducted under artificial spotlights – which is something the archers must prepare for.
“In the Sambodromo, the sunlight in the mornings is different than in the afternoons,” explained Galiazzo.
“But the target is always the same, like the shooting distance. Our task is simple: shoot as many 10s as possible, regardless the conditions.”
There’s no script to follow to ensure success at the Olympic level. Italy has secured podiums in the past. This team, though, looks to the future.
The archery competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starts on the 5 August in the Sambodromo.