Olympic qualifier Barbelin adds European title to Antalya haul
France’s Lisa Barbelin completed a breakout week in Antalya by taking the recurve women’s title at the 2021 European Championships, while Spain’s talented team anchor Pablo Acha was crowned winner in the men’s event.
Just two days removed from securing a coveted quota place to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, 21-year-old Barbelin defeated Karyna Dziominskaya of Belarus in straight sets to claim France’s first European individual title since the famed Berengere Schuh took hers in 2008. The result may push Barbelin to the top of the world rankings with the final Olympic team qualifier and third stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup scheduled for Paris in two weeks.
“I took care of this match as a new match,” she said. “I’m really happy, and really proud. But now it’s the Olympic Games and Paris, so I have to be focused.”
Spain’s Pablo Acha battled early struggles with his precision to claim gold in the recurve men’s final over Russia’s Galsan Bazarzhapov, stepping into the spotlight as an individual amid his impressive season as the anchor of a surging Spanish team.
“I was really calm because I really believe in my process and just tried to choose where I needed to aim,” Acha said. "If the arrow went to the left, I tried to move a little bit or aim a little bit more and trust in and believe in my process.”
Acha and Bazarzhapov entered the fifth and deciding set tied. Each then kept pace with an eight and a nine to start. Acha, shooting first, proceeded to shoot a 10 with his final shot – as he so often has for his team this season – and apply pressure on his Russian opponent, who was simply unable to match the talented finisher.
“I’m really proud of myself and really proud of my coach, and also I’m proud of every member of the team and the staff,” Acha said. “They’re the reason I’m calm in these situations and in control under pressure. They’re the reason I’m European Champion.”
Russia took two more medals, both gold, in the recurve women’s team and mixed team events.
Svetlana Gomboeva, Elena Osipova and Ksenia Perova defeated Germany’s Michelle Kroppen, Charline Schwarz and Lisa Unruh, 5-3, to start the morning finals session in Antalya, while Elena Osipova and Aldar Tsybikzhapov beat Spain’s Acha and Elia Canales, 6-0, to start the afternoon.
“It’s very good that we took a gold medal here,” former world champion Perova said. “Inside, in my soul, it’s great to take a medal. It’s a big motivation. It gives me strength ahead of the Olympics. It will make us stronger inside at the Olympics because we’ve won a gold medal now.”
The Netherlands received similar reassurance with their victory in the recurve men’s team competition. Sjef Van den Berg, Rick Van der Ven and Steve Wijler solidified their status as medal favourites in Tokyo with a hard-fought victory over Ukraine.
“I feel pretty awesome,” said Wijler, who exited the individual event earlier than expected, despite his top seeding. "For me, this is the first European title that we’ve had as a team, and this one was also a bit personal because I came here as a European Champion, and I lost that way too early, so I’m really happy to do it at least as a team.”
The Dutch started slow, falling into a 3-1 hole against Oleksii Hunbin, Heorhiy Ivanytskyy and Ivan Kozhokar after two sets, but they roared back with a strong second half that was punctuated by Sjef’s final 10 to win the match. “It might have been nerves as well, but my bow was not particularly aiming in the middle, so I was able to pull it off and shoot it in the 10 anyways,” he said.
The recurve finals brought the 2021 European Championships, which also saw eight quota places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games awarded to six nations, to a close.