Mexican youngster Valentina Vazquez converts promise into Pan American Champion title

Valentina Vazquez shoots during finals at the Pan American Championships in 2021.

Mexico's Valentina Vazquez and Colombia’s Santiago Arcila took the individual recurve titles during the last finals session at the 2021 Pan American Championships in Monterrey, Mexico.

Arcila’s victory brought Colombia’s third individual victory on finals day after Nora Valdez and Daniel Munoz took compound golds.

“It fills us with confidence,” he said afterward. “Not just me, but the whole team, my teammates, because we are all good, we are all capable of representing the country. We’ll keep working, keep training and everything else will come.”

Archery fans in Mexico have a lot to be excited about, too – and nothing more so than the talented young depth in its strong recurve women’s team.

Both 18-year-old Valentina Vazquez and 20-year-old Ana Vazquez made the final four on home soil at these championships in Monterrey. With the pair matched up in the semis, the host nation was guaranteed a finalist and a podium.

It was a great match, despite the aggressive wind.

Valentina won the first two sets as her opponent struggled, but the runner-up at the past world youth championships rallied, levelling the match at 4-4 as the tables turned. Neither archer found an advantage in a wild fifth regulation set, both shooting a score of 24 points – and sending the match to a tiebreak.

Valentina shot first and hit a nine. Ana couldn’t find her way into the gap closer to the middle, and Valentina took the match.

Impossible as it seemed, the wind got worse for the final. Valentina simply dealt with the conditions just a little better, dispatching Colombia’s Maira Sepulveda in straight sets while averaging just under 7.5 points per arrow.

“Winning this wasn’t about who could shoot better, but who could control the wind better or who could adapt better to it,” said Valentina. “I tried to adapt my technique, adapt to the conditions as quickly as I could and give my best.“

Following a remote indoor season in which she flashed talent by topping the open rankings, this championship title marks Valentina’s first major senior podium.

Ana Vazquez took bronze after shooting a 10 in another tiebreak to beat second-seeded Colombian archer Valentina Contreras.

The recurve men’s final saw top seed Marcus D’Almeida, a silver medallist at the Youth Olympic Games and Hyundai Archery World Cup Final back in 2014, take on the relatively unheralded Santiago Arcila of Colombia.

D’Almeida was the strong favourite and acted as such early, shooting back-to-back 29s in the windy second and third sets to go up, 4-2.

But then Arcila went off script, shooting a pretty three arrows totalling 28 points in the fourth set to beat Marcus’ 26 and level the match. In the fifth and decisive set, everything just went wrong for the Brazilian archer.

Whether it was the wind or not, D’Almeida collapsed – and shot a pair of sevens.

A beautiful 10 to finish couldn’t save him, as it still left Arcila needing just a six to win. He delivered a wide-left seven and, unsure if it was enough, took a minute to comprehend what he’d achieved before the tears appeared.

“It’s one more dream I‘ve achieved as an athlete, and I‘m not that experienced in these elite competitions,” he said in his post-match interview. “I tried not to see [the wind] as a challenge, but as a strength – so that I had to shoot even stronger.”

“I fought against it, and I got it done.”

Brazil had two recurve men on the podium after Bernardo Oliveira defeated Chilean Olympian Ricardo Soto in the bronze medal match, 6-2.

As well as the continental champion titles, six quota places to the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were won by recurve archers from eligible countries in Monterrey. Athletes from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela won the spots.

The individual recurve finals were the last event of the 2021 Pan American Championships in Mexico.

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