Seb Peineau says defending world title a constant thought

Few who watched it will forget the classic match between Sebastien Peineau and Stephan Hansen that decided the world title in 2017. It was one of the most exciting major compound finals we’ve ever seen.

In Antalya, Peineau – along with almost all the top compound men in the world – has eyes on the next world championships and is using this World Cup stage as a final tune-up before Den Bosch.

Unlike his peers on the line, Peineau will be defending his world title.

“It’s always on the mind. It’s a big thing just to make the national team these days. I had a rough start to the trials too. I try not to put much pressure on myself because I’m the world champion. But it’s always at the back of the mind,” he said.

“The world championships is the biggest event we have as compounds, along with the World Games. I know if I have a pretty good week, I can be on the podium. But in our category now, you can shoot 150, and one might be an X and one might be a 10 - and you’ll have lost.”

Peineau started this year with his third career 900-point perfect round at the Vegas Shoot, the gold standard for compound archers indoors.

He and his French teammates pushed all the way to the final at the opening stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Medellin, beating the USA on the way, but finally lost to Italy.

During the individual finals in Colombia, Peineau lost to individual silver medallist Braden Gellenthien.

“I pretty much gave him the match. I had one really bad arrow, the dot just dropped, and it was in the eight, and that was it,” he recalled. “He shot well, and I shot well for four ends. But it gave me information for this tournament. And I’m shooting way better, the feeling is back. I’m ready for a good week here.”

An archer for over 20 years, Seb turned professional after winning the World Archery Indoor Championships in Ankara, Turkey in 2016 – where he defeated Mike Schloesser in another classic title bout. The win in Mexico City made him reigning indoor and outdoor champion at the same time.

He knows how important that match in the Zocalo was.

“I can remember every detail. I’ve watched it a few times, but even without that I can still remember every detail,” said Seb, laughing. “The arrow that went really close, that forced the shoot-off. I remember how much I was moving during the shoot-off.”

“I just blocked out everything I could, forced the dot to the middle of the yellow, and let him go. I also remember my coach saying it was a good ten, and me saying, ‘yes, but he can just drill the X’.”

Hansen’s arrow hit the 10 instead, wider of the middle than the Frenchman’s.

“Everything exploded for me. A lot of emotions came at the same moment,” said Peineau. “Before Mexico, I hadn’t shot an arrow for the six months up until March 2017. You can always have a good competition, a good week. But becoming world champion? No, I never expected that. It will be in my mind forever.”

Seb is a family man now – and his daughter will celebrate her second birthday during this year’s world championships.

“I will be sad not to be home for that, but that’s the job,” he said.

For now, the 31-year-old has his focus on this last event before ’s-Hertogenbosch. It’s a chance to test that confidence and stability he’ll need to mount a serious defence of his world title next month.

Because there’s no doubt there’ll be some worthy challengers.

“As well as the top 10 [in the world rankings], I think there are some other guys with a chance. Daniel Munoz is shooting well, Domagoj [Buden], as well,” said Seb. “[Brend] Frederickx was shooting incredible in Shanghai; the Koreans, too.”

Does that mean the pressure is on Peineau to perform in Turkey? A result here is absolutely necessary before the worlds? Well, no.

“The World Cup stage before Mexico, I lost in the last 16. A month later, I was world champion,” he said. “So anything can happen. My way of thinking is: let’s just see the total at the end.”

The third stage of the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Cup takes place on 20-26 May in Antalya, Turkey.