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Sixteen years after setting a new individual Olympic record at Atlanta, Michele Frangilli hit a 10 with his last arrow to secure team gold for Italy at London 2012
Born in Gallarate in northern Italy, Michele Frangilli was given his first bow by his parents when he was still at nursery school. He took part in his first official competition in 1986, at the age of 10, and earned selection for the national junior team four years later. Focusing mainly on the Olympic distance of 70m, he has since worn the blue of Italy without interruption. Developing an anchoring technique all of his own, Frangilli won his first world junior title in 1994 and was only 20 when he earned selection for Atlanta 1996.
Frangilli amassed 684 points in the individual ranking round at Atlanta, a new Olympic record and one that stood until Korea Republic’s Im Donghyun topped it with a total of 699 at London 2012. Fighting his way through to the quarter-finals, the young Italian archer was then beaten by the USA’s Justin Huish, the eventual champion, and had to be content with sixth place. He then joined forces with Matteo Bisani and Andrea Parenti in the team competition, in which the Italians lost to the host nation in the semi-finals before beating Australia 248-244 in the bronze medal match.
Known on the circuit as “the Heretic Archer” – the title of a book he published in 2005 – Frangilli won the world and European team titles three years later and took part in his second Olympics at Sydney 2000. Qualifying 19th for the knockout phase, he went out in the Round of 16 and eventually placed tenth. He went on to play a decisive role in the team event, however, linking up with Matteo Bisani and Ilario Di Buò as Italy reached the final, where they lost 255-247 to the Republic of Korea.
In becoming individual world champion in New York in 2003, Frangilli moved to the top of the FITA world rankings, but he endured a forgettable Games at Athens 2004. After finishing a lowly 31st in the individual competition, which was won by his team-mate Marco Galliazzo, he and his compatriots could do no better than seventh in the team event. Frangilli then missed out on selection altogether for Beijing 2008, a victim of the exceptionally high standard of Italian archery.
Though he had an individual competition to forget at London 2012, where he was eliminated in the first round, his sparkling performance in the team event will long be remembered. After easing through the knockout rounds, the Italian trio, which was completed by Marco Galliazzo and Mauro Nespoli, took on the USA in the final. A tight match went down to the very last arrow, with the 36-year-old Frangilli striking a 10 to give his side gold by a solitary point.
He had to choke back the tears as he digested one of the most unforgettable moments of his career. “My voice has gone, I can’t describe how I feel,” said the emotional Italian. “I had a few seconds left and I just tried to give it everything I had. The arrow flew off, dead straight, and I saw it heading right for the 10. The pressure was on because the clock was ticking. We weren’t sure about winning the medal, but we’ve worked very hard and stuck together as a team.”