Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
OGDEN — Competitive archery is all about putting as many arrows as possible as close to the bull's-eye as you can get 'em — and hopefully putting more of them there than your opponent does.
But American archery ace Jennifer Nichols feels very strongly that there was a much higher power at play who was really pulling the strings for the United States squad in Thursday's 2012 Summer Olympics qualifying event.
"I think that my team and I gave our winning performance today," Nichols said following the Archery World Cup competition at the Golden Spike Events Center, where she and U.S. teammates Khatuna Lorig and Miranda Leek earned a berth in the upcoming London Games with a gold medal-winning performance in the Women's Recurve Team event featuring 66 teams from around the world.
"And what's more than that is that I know that God really carried us through. And my relationship with God is of the utmost importance to me. And I tell you what, he was hearing a lot about this tournament today," said Nichols, who felt like her prayers were definitely answered when she and her teammates nailed down a coveted Olympic bid — the first for a U.S. women's team since 2004.
The Americans actually punched their ticket to London with a 218-212 victory over Japan in the semifinals.
"It was incredible. I can't even express," Nichols, a native of Cheyenne, Wyo., said of clinching their berth and knowing that she'll be making her third trip to the Summer Games. "It was a feeling of victory like I have never experienced in my life. … It's inexpressible. I'm so glad, so glad.
"I don't think that anyone that was shooting this afternoon was able to come in without some kind of nervousness. As we started, you could see it in our scores — we kept going up and up, our team got more and more comfortable and our confidence is very much in each other, too. As that built, we really came on strong.
"I feel that this team is a winning team," Nichols said. "In my second Olympics, I didn't even have a team; it was just Khatuna and me, so we didn't even have a chance to go to the team competition.
"But this, this is it for us, and I feel that our performance out here was training us and building our confidence for what's to come in London."
In Thursday's gold medal match, the Americans outlasted Mexico by winning in a tense tiebreaker. Both teams had regulation scores of 213, and then in the shoot-off, they each posted identical scores of 27.
But Nichols' arrow in the shoot-off pierced the target closest to the dead-center of the bull's-eye, giving the U.S. team the victory.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic for those girls," said Denise Parker, a Utah native and three-time Olympian who now serves as CEO of USA Archery. "They are shooting so well, all three of them, and they just deserve to be therein London and I think they proved it today.
"It's so good for our girls. They've struggled in the last couple of Olympics, and for them to be sending three girls — and three strong shooters — to the Olympics, that's big for our program. That's really, really important. It's big, it's big for USA Archery.
"It's been a long time since the women's program has done real well, and we've got three strong girls," said Parker, who resides in the northern Weber County town of Pleasant View — which overlooks this year's Archery World Cup competition. "So, yeah, this is a proud moment."
For the 38-year-old Lorig, this will be her fifth Olympics overall and second as an American citizen. A native of the Soviet Republic of Georgia, she competed in three Olympics before coming to the United States and gaining her citizenship in time to compete for the U.S. in the 2008 Games in Beijing.
But perhaps her greatest claim to fame is teaching actress Jennifer Lawrence how to shoot a bow for this year's blockbuster move, "The Hunger Games."
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football...
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football...
- BYU basketball: Agustin Ambrosino leaves BYU...
- High school baseball: Bingham Miners bring...
- High school baseball: Salem Hills Skyhawks...
- ESPN trivia guru: University of Utah graduate...
- High school boys soccer: Lehi beats Bingham,...
- High school boys soccer: Practice makes...
- High school baseball: 5A, 4A state... 56
- Hard work, dedication pay off for... 56
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football... 30
- BYU basketball: Dave Rose hoping Tyler... 28
- BYU basketball: Agustin Ambrosino... 28
- Bodyguards allegedly beat up 2 fans who... 19
- Utah Jazz: No lottery luck, so Jazz... 19
- Utah State football: New coach Matt... 14