By Ken Stone
The victory was bittersweet. On the way to a final in front of the grandstands, he beat Olympic medalist Brady Ellison — America’s hope for gold at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.
And in the gold-medal match, amid thumping electronic music and challenging winds, Klimitchek defeated another London silver winner — Jacob Wukie of Fremont, Ohio.
Klimitchek, 20, didn’t make the Rio team. He was fifth in the final Olympic Trials last month in Newberry, Florida. (Only the top three go to Rio.)
“It was a good feeling to be able to shoot and know I still have that talent,” the native Texan said after outscoring Wukie, placing more arrows in the center of a target 70 meters down the racetrack. He collected a $2,000 top prize.
Klimitchek was a bit humbled a few minutes later, however. He and two other top archers challenged the three-man Olympic squad — and lost the exhibition 6-2.
“I’ve been working at this for 15 years now,” said the four-year resident of the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. “But at the same time, my goal for this [recent Olympic] Trials was just to put everything out there and figure out if I have what it takes this year. And I don’t.”
After losing to the Rio squad Sunday, he said: “I’m confident that the team going is the best team that could have been selected. I wish I would have been on it. But archery is one of those things — there’s not really an age limit on it. So as long as you can pull the bow back, you can still compete.”
Reo Wilde of Pocatello, Idaho, is proof of that.
At 42, he won a $2,000 top prize Sunday with the non-Olympic compound bow — a high-tech contraption that hunters favor. After 16 years at UPS, he became the top American in his event — and ranks third or fourth in the world.
Wilde, a professional archer for seven years, used NCAA basketball terms to explain how he made the final. He survived five or six rounds at the Olympic Training Center — which pitted No. 1 vs. No. 64 in a March Madness style bracket.
In the Final Two, he beat Braden Gellenthien of Hudson, Massachusetts.
“Kind of neat to get other people exposed to it,” Wilde said of the Showdown’s setting — under the gaze of skyway riders heading to the infield Family Funville. “That’s not the norm (the blaring music). It was not bad.”
The SoCal Showdown, presented by the Easton Foundations and sponsored by Arizona Archery Enterprises Inc., drew 400 archers from ages 14 to 70 — cadets and masters.
The fairgrounds finale was an effort to expose the sport to the masses. Most people walked on by, although several dozen watched from the shady area of the grandstands.
Ellison, a London silver medalist in the team event, had reason to cheer Sunday despite not making the final. His Slovenian wife of two months won the women’s compound-bow event.
Toja Ellison defeated Mexico’s Stephanie Salinas in a close contest.
“It’s my first time here,” said the winner. “The experience is awesome” despite a lower score than she’s used to. “I enjoy the temperature here too,” since she lives with Brady in sizzling Globe, Arizona.
Brady, whom she met at a Colombia tournament, is her main coach.
“I would say I have a lot of coaches,” said Ellison, 22, finishing up work for a physical education degree at an East Slovenia college. “Everyone coaches me. I’m asking, and people help me.”
She’s in the process of getting her green card and could become a U.S. citizen after three years.
Any chance of joining her hubby as an Olympian in 2020?
“Maybe in the future — if they change the rules,” she said.
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