Marine Corps archer takes gold by one point

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Burkett releases an arrow during the gold medal match against Canada’s Cpl. Luc Martin. Burkett won the gold medal in the mixed individual compound bow category of the Archery event at the Invictus Games. Over 400 competitors from 13 nations took part in the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick service members. Maj. Burkett enlisted in the Army in 1994 and was later commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1999. He has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with multiple Marine Expeditionary Units, but was injured on his right leg, which led to an amputation below the knee, and a left knee replacement. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Mark Logico/RELEASED)

LONDON — Marine Corps Maj. Richard Burkett Jr. brought the United States another gold medal with his win in the Mixed Individual Compound Open archery match here Sept 12.

Tensions were high as Burkett and the audience waited to hear the judge’s decision on his last shot, which was too close to call with the naked eye. After roughly two minutes of anticipation, the shot was scored a 10, giving him the gold medal by a single point.

“It was exciting,” he said. “Obviously, I was hoping it would pop up a 10, and it did. But, if it stayed a nine, that would’ve been fine too because the adrenaline rush of a one arrow shoot off … that’s what you’re here for — to compete.”

Burkett won two matches en route to his first-place finish, both of which were back and forth battles with stressful lead changes.

“If you get caught up on (the score), you start putting weird pressures on yourself,” he said. “I don’t look at (my opponent’s) arrows, I don’t look at his score, I try to tune out the announcers. The only thing that I was listening for was (my turn to shoot).”

The athletes had very few shots outside of the 9- or 10-point variety, but when they happened, a lead change soon followed. Burkett said it’s important to forget those poor shots and focus on making the next shot the best of the match.

“A lot of guys look at it as a 15-arrow match,” he said. “It really isn’t. It’s 15 one-arrow matches.”

The tournament format is head-to-head, which is determined by seeding that took place earlier in the week. With four players competing in Burkett’s category, a loss in the first match, the semifinals, meant a trip to the bronze medal match, and a win gave competitors a shot at gold.

Matches consist of five rounds where each competitor will alternate, taking three shots per round and operating under a time limit. There are three targets aligned vertically. Each target must be hit once per round. Burkett said developing the skill of competitive archery takes, “a lot of time behind the bow.”

For him, the sport is a outlet he said, but moreover, it gets him out of the hospital and in an environment where he doesn’t have to think about his lower-right leg amputation.

“I’m a huge advocate of adaptive sports,” he said, noting that he does anything he can to show other injured people that there is life after injury. “Archery is a great way to focus on something besides your current medical conditions.”

The Invictus Games run through Sept. 14 at the site of the 2012 summer Olympics and will feature athletes competing in various Paralympic-style events, including swimming, track and field, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby, among others.

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