Persistence pays off as Olympic Champion Oh named winner of Indoor World Series

Oh Jin Hyek shoots during the Nimes Archery Tournament in 2019.

Oh Jin Hyek, Valentina Vazquez, Jesus Sanchez, Ella Gibson, Erik Jonsson and Lina Bjorklund have been named open champions of the 2021 Indoor Archery World Series.

The annual 18-metre mass participation circuit combined small live events with virtual competitions.

Four stages were held monthly from November 2020 to February 2021, plus a bonus live leg at the Sud de France – Nimes Archery Tournament in late January, and archers were ranked on their best three 60-arrow ranking round results from across the season. 

More than 6600 archers competed in the series worldwide.

Among them were amateurs and professionals, young and older athletes, competition rookies and Olympic gold medallists, like recurve men’s champion Oh Jin Hyek. He shot all four remote stages from the Hyundai Steel pro team facility and Korean national training centre in Korea. 

“In any type of competition, winning the title is always great,” he said. “I truly enjoyed shooting the events and I felt like I was competing against other archers.”

Jin Hyek’s career to date has embodied perseverance.

He became the first recurve man from Korea to win the individual Olympic title when he took gold at London 2012. He’s been a staple of the international squad since, despite battling shoulder injuries, and announced last year he would postpone retirement so that he could give the delayed Games in Tokyo one last shot.

After three second-place finishes from the first three stages of the World Series, Oh’s persistence paid off as he delivered his best score of the season, a 599, in the fourth to win the last leg.

“I put more effort into the competition since it was the last one of the season and, even though they were online events, I wanted to win at least once,” he said.

Jin Hyek’s 597s from December and January, alongside that last 599 in February, counted towards his open ranking. His total of 1793 points put him six points clear of second-ranked French archer Thomas Chirault and seven up on presumptive favourite Brady Ellison.

Reigning World Archery Champion Ellison headed into the fourth stage with two 598s on his board. He shot at the Rushmore Rumble and, in a pre-event interview, told Competition Archery Media he’d be aiming for whatever score he needed to win the circuit.

But Brady only managed a 590 in Yankton. That gave him 1786 in total and dropped him to third in the final ranking.

“I had a lot of fun during the tournaments,” said circuit champion Oh. “I organised witnesses to make it fair and I treated it as a real match, shooting my best. During this hard situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, I was just grateful to be able to shoot again.”

The fourth stage was decisive in three of the other categories.

Ella Gibson and Jesus Sanchez won the compound events in February with scores of 593 and 600 points, the latter being the second perfect result of the season after Dave Cousin’s maximum in December.

Gibson jumped to the top of the compound women’s ranking with a total of 1779, four up on Iranian pair Elham Ghadimpour and Mina Moradi Vand, who tied on 1775. The British 20-year-old had previous rounds of 590 in December and 596 in January banked.

Sanchez competed in all four stages. His first result, a 592 in November, wasn’t counted towards his ranking total as he shot back-to-back 598s in December and January followed by the perfect score to close. He edged reigning Hyundai Archery World Cup Champion Mike Schloesser to the top spot by two points.

Mexico’s archers have long tended to do well at international indoor events.

It’s always been intriguing since the country’s climate is fairly temperate and the countries that tend to shoot regularly indoors, and find success, are those that need to retreat from colder conditions.  

Two of this circuit’s open champion titles went to Mexican archers.

Sanchez was one, Youth Olympian Valentina Vazquez – just 17 years old – was the other. The reigning continental champion for the under-18 age group averaged a very respectable count of more than 588 points through the three stages from December. 

Vazquez knocked Lisa Barbelin off the top spot in the recurve women’s open ranking with her result from the last stage.

Erik Jonsson put in the most impressive performance of any archer this season.

This year’s Indoor Archery World Series was the first major circuit to include barebow as an official competition category, following its addition to the rules of target archery at the start of 2020.

Jonsson made the most of the opportunity.

The five-time World Archery Field Champion won all four stages of the circuit, scoring rounds of 569, 577, 576 and 581 points – all incredible results without any sights or stabilisers. He finished 13 points clear of the second-place archer in the open ranking on a total of 1734.

“This is my best indoor season so far. It feels good to have won all four stages. I didn’t expect that,” he said.

Erik’s partner, Lina Bjorklund, had her result from the fourth leg disqualified as picture evidence of the round was not received by competition control before the deadline. Fortunately, the error didn’t sacrifice her lead in the barebow women’s open ranking.

Bjorklund had a total of 1629 from the previous three stages.

Fatemeh Ghasempour, who won the last leg, made a late charge – but ended up two points behind on 1627. Cinzia Noziglia, a longtime rival of Lina’s on the international field course, landed third with 1616.

Even remotely, Sweden’s barebows exerted authority over the division.

Every single archer listed in the open rankings will receive a certificate with their final position once all checks on the results of the last stage are complete in a couple of weeks.

Team finals for the Indoor Archery World Series will take place remotely on 27-28 February.

The 2021 Indoor Archery World Series is a mass-participation circuit of live and online archery tournaments.