Indoor success heralds exciting transition to senior ranks for Mexico’s Vazquez
It was a strange experience. Instead of competing in venues with other archers, the annual 18-metre circuit was held largely online. Archers were ranked on their best 60-arrow ranking round scores – and Valentina shone.
She finished eighth, fifth and and second place during the last three stages, averaging more than 588 points, and ranked first overall ahead of experienced internationals like Casey Kaufhold and Lisa Unruh.
Even for Vazquez, the results were surprising.
“I didn’t know you could finish first in the series,” she said. “I found out because of the guy who finished first in compound [Jesus Sanchez]. I was in a different world. I really didn’t expect it.”
The final result was a far cry from the Youth Olympian’s start to the remote world tour.
Shooting from the city of Cozumel, Mexico, Vazquez's score for the first stage was disqualified because she shot an unlicensed three-spot target face. But she persisted; after returning home to Nuevo Leon, she delivered some exceptional results – especially since she was shooting the mostly indoor event outside.
“That day was super windy. I was very stressed because it was something I couldn’t control, and at 18 metres, it is super important that you don’t have wind,” she said. “Sometimes I took longer in between ends while waiting for the wind to stop.”
Vazquez persevered to shoot a 299.
“I also didn’t expect that!” she said. “Before that competition, I was focused on 70 metres. I only had like five ends of practice, shot the competition and that’s how I got that score.”
Mexican archers have historically thrived at major indoor events, despite tending to practise and competing mostly outdoors.
Olympic silver medallist Aida Roman might be the most striking example. She became World Archery Indoor Champion in Nimes in 2014 – two years after her major success at the London 2012 Olympic Games – but the list of medal-winners is long.
When asked for the secret, Vazquez pointed to her team’s adaptability.
“We shoot indoors and outdoors, so I think that definitely helps,” she said. “We focus on doing our job the best way we can. So, if we shoot outdoors with changing conditions, we know it will be easier when we move indoors without any bad conditions.”
Vazquez is the reigning Pan Am Champion in the under-18 age group, finished fourth at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 and stepped up to the under-21 band for the indoor worlds in 2018.
But this remote result means something more.
“I’m about to turn 18, but I feel like an older archer,” Vazquez said. “Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done much. But I know doors will open, it only depends on me how I will walk through them. I’m trying to only focus on what I can do.”
The ability of this young athlete to self reflect and self evaluate is impressive.
Many archers would have been happy with a fourth-place finish at a Youth Olympics, but Vazquez says she fell apart. After losing her semifinal match and knowing she wasn’t going for gold, her world ended.
“It was awful. Before going into the [bronze medal] match, I was a disaster. My mind was disgusting, I was depressed, I didn’t want to be there,” she recalled.
“2019 was a terrible year, emotionally speaking, because of Buenos Aires. I started to compare myself with every other archer. I thought my technique wasn’t good, so I changed it a lot and then, when I was in Madrid for the youth worlds, I watched a video of me from Buenos Aires and I asked myself ‘what did I do? Why is my technique so horrible? What have I done?’”
Overcoming those feelings of doubt and disappointment is what Valentina considers as having set herself up for future success.
She’s worked not just to improve her physical technique – but on her mind, too.
This young Mexican athlete is ready to take up the mantle of those who came before her, like the Olympic medalists Roman and Mariana Avitia. She’s completely focused on her path forward as an elite archer.
“My dream is to go to the Olympics. I’d like to be as good as Sara Lopez is in the compound, but in recurve,” she said. “It won’t be easy, as the Koreans are always there at their best, but the only way to beat them and be as good as them is by training and challenging my limits.”
Valentina will join experienced archers Roman and Alejandra Valencia, plus successful youth archer Ana Vazquez, in the recurve women’s team at the Pan American Championships in Monterrey later this month. It will be her debut as a member of the Mexican senior team.
The nerves are there. But so is the desire to learn.
“My goal there is to finish in the top 10,” she said. “I also want to gain more confidence in the head-to-heads and finish in the top three. But if I don’t make it, I want to feel like I did everything I could to make it possible.”