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Hunger Games?

LONDON -- I figured that headline might grab you. I'm sitting the press box at Lord's Cricket Ground in northwest London, site of the Olympic archery competition. Archery is super hot in the U.S. these days, thanks in large part to the success of the "Hunger Games" books and film, in which the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, uses her archery prowess to survive. 

The U.S. men, including Elma native Jake Kaminski, will be taking on Japan in a quarterfinal of the men's team competition in a little over an hour. Depending on the developments in swimming, the men's archers could be the first Americans to win a medal here. Two wins would assure that. If they lose in the semifinals, they would play for the bronze medal late this afternoon. The gold-medal match is schedule for 6:01 p.m. Why the extra minute, I can't say.

This is a really cool venue. The Cricket Ground is like a mid-sized minor league baseball park, with two levels of stands and a lovely old pavilion at the open end opposite us. Cricket was first played here in 1787, shortly after the Brits lost to us in war.

On the opposite end of the cricket ground's grass field are two temporary grandstands, set up for fans to view the archery. The archers will be shooting from the far end of the field, in front of the pavilion. I'll be heading down in a while to watch the match from the press "tribune" seats atop the balcony of outside the second floor of the paviilion.

The Americans earned a bye by finishing fourth in Friday's ranking round. Four of the 12 teams got byes and there were four pre-quarterfinal matches this morning. Japan, which was fifth in the ranking round, sqeaked past No. 12 India in a shootout. The three-man teams were tied, 214-214, after regulation. Japan won the shootout, 29-27. Each of the three team members shoots one arrow in the shootout. Ten is the top score for one arrow, so that means Japan got two "10s".

As a fan of hockey and soccer shootouts, I'd love to see the Americans get to a shootout. It must be incredibly exciting to see an Olympic match riding on one man shooting an arrow at a 122-centimer diameter bullseye from 70 meters. Maybe Kaminski can be in that position and come through for the country.

Things go a lot faster in the Olympic round. Each archer shot 72 arrows in the qualifying. In the team matches, each archers gets only eight. You really have to make them count. That's why Brady Ellison, the star of the American team, said it'll be a lot tougher for the South Koreans today. They'll be shooting in the stadium, in front of a packed grandstand. There were no spectators allowed on Friday.

Of course, I'm told the Koreans, who won team gold in 2004 and '08, often practice in front of baseball crowds to simulate crowd noise. I'm guessing they're no strangers to crowd noise or pressure. Their top archer, Im Dong-hyun, is legally blind. He seems to be doing OK. He broke his own world record in the Friday ranking round.

The U.S.-Japan quarterfinal will be the second of the afternoon. South Korea plays Ukraine at 3. Barring a big upset, the Americans would run into the Koreans in the semifinals at 4:40 p.m.

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