Espinosa’s uphill battle to make the Olympic Games a reality

Adriana Espinosa de los Monteros shoots during practice at the first stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Guatemala City.

Adriana Espinosa is the first archer from Ecuador to ever qualify for the Olympic Games.

It’s still not sure that she’ll go, though. The 29-year-old hasn’t hit the minimum qualification score to be allowed to participate. With time quickly ticking, she’s got precious weeks to reach the level demanded of an archery Olympian.

It was only six years ago that Adriana accepted an invitation from her brother to visit an archery range near their home in Guayaquil.

She says that she didn’t think much of the sport at the time. He wanted company, so Espinosa decided just to tag along in support. 

“I actually love that it’s an individual sport,” she says now. “It’s helped me reduce my stress levels a lot. That’s why I stayed – because I love the idea of disconnecting my mind from reality.”

An engineer in business management with a master’s degree in finance, Adriana is still coming to terms with her newfound competitive prosperity. Last month, at just her third international competition outside her home country, Espinosa placed fourth in the recurve women’s qualification event for Tokyo 2020 held alongside the Pan American Championships in Monterrey.

“I remember my coach was super happy, and I was in shock,” she said. “I was just repeating, ‘thank you, thank you.’ I couldn’t say anything else. I know it’s hard to understand, but that’s the only explanation I have.”

Fighting up from the 13th seed in the event, it was Espinosa’s quarterfinal win over Bolivian archer Camila Paredes that secured the Olympic ticket. There were three quota places available – up to a maximum of one per country – and two Canadian archers finished in the top three, meaning Adriana, in fourth, took the third spot.

The qualification places aren’t easy to follow live – and it was only later that night that Adriana realised the magnitude of what she had achieved.

“It was funny,” she continued. “I think my mental process was paused back then. It was like I was floating, like on a bubble, and suddenly, after a few hours, that bubble broke and I realised it. Processing it wasn’t easy for me.”

A welcome party greeted Espinosa upon her return, along with a level of media attention she had not previously dreamed of. Her family and teammates celebrated with a cake. Quiroga Guillermo, the president of the Ecuadorian Archery Federation, arranged for posters with her likeness to be made.

Adriana Espinosa shoots at the 2021 Pan American Championships in Monterrey, Mexico.

“Everything was really nice,” Espinosa said. “It all makes me think I have a big responsibility, so I’m getting prepared and working on a few things with my coach before going to the Olympics, so I’ll be ready.”

With the quota place attained, Espinosa’s preparations are now centred around making it a reality by achieving a minimum of 605 points on the 72-arrow 70-metre ranking round in a tournament endorsed by World Archery. (That’s one registered in the official calendar.)

She fell short last week at the first stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Guatemala City, but she is confident that will soon change.

Her training sessions have intensified. She adapted her teaching modules around her schedule, and a second job – she left a third on stand-by – is virtual, which works well with practice and an increasingly frantic competition calendar. Because if Adriana doesn’t hit that all-important score, the quota place she fought so hard for will be wasted.

It’s a lot of pressure. And with so much on her plate, she is learning to say no to things that aren’t essential to work or archery. 

“I think I have nothing to lose but everything to win,” she said. “I’m here doing something I love. If I win, wonderful, but if I don’t, I’ll take back the experience. It’s always a learning process for me.”

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