Photo Courtesy: BUTCH JOHNSON/188.8.131.52 - Butch Johnson
Butch Johnson can see the target. It’s right there, nine months and thousands of miles away, perched on the horizon.
Whether he hits the bull’s-eye remains to be seen. London, after all, is a long way away.
But if there’s ever been an archer who can hit his target, it’s Johnson.
The five-time Olympian, 56, is taking his best shot at the London 2012 Olympic Games, hoping to become one of the few Americans to go to six Olympiads. And, after the first of three trials to determine the U.S. team held Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Texas A&M, Johnson is in third place.
Following the first round of the Olympic Trials in College Station, Texas, the field was trimmed to the top 16 men and women. The Olympic Team Trials for Archery will continue beginning April 23 with the second Nomination Shoot in Chula Vista, Calif., in which the top eight archers in each category will be selected. The final three-person teams and alternates will be named at the final trials event in June in Colorado Springs.
“I’m sitting in decent position right now, so we’ll see what happens,” said Johnson, who cautions that the trials process is long and fickle. One gust of wind, one bad arrow or one red-hot opponent can mean the difference between marching in the Opening Ceremony or watching it on TV from his couch in Connecticut.
“It’s just the way the trials are,” he said. “If you have a bad weekend, you’re out. Each one counts for a little bit more, so as events go on, you could have a rough day and that’s it. You’ve got to stay consistent and shoot fairly well, all the way through.”
Richard “Butch” Johnson knows about consistency.
For more than 20 years, he’s been at the pinnacle of his sport. He’s been on U.S. Olympic Teams in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). He was part of the gold-medal team in Atlanta and the bronze-medal team in Sydney. He’s set world and national records, won scores of national championships — going all the way back to his U.S. indoor title in 1973 — and multiple medals in international competitions, including an individual silver in the 1995 Pan American Games.
Winning a spot on a sixth Olympic team would be special — “I’m happy with the five, but six would be better,” he said, laughing — but he knows earning a trip to London will be difficult. With an influx of young talent, led by world No. 1-ranked Brady Ellison, the United States has perhaps its best and deepest group.
Johnson said he’s still holding his own against the tide of youth, but that tide is strong. Aside from Ellison, 22, there’s Jake Kaminski, 23, who finished second behind Ellison in the first round of trials, along with Jacob Wukie (25) and Joe Fanchin (24). Then there’s veteran Vic Wunderle (the last American to win an