Lopez, Valdez flying Colombian flag high at season finale in Yankton

Sara Lopez shoots at stage three of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, France.

Their mission is greater than themselves.

Colombia’s needs were met before a single arrow was shot in the compound women’s final at stage three of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, France.

An enticing match-up between teammates Sara Lopez and Alejandra Usquiano guaranteed the nation the maximum of two archers qualified in the category at this month’s Hyundai Archery World Cup Final, with Nora Valdez having already secured her spot with a victory at stage one of the international circuit in Guatemala City.

Lopez went on to win the match – which was an absolute thriller – to claim the second of the two possible slots at the event, meanwhile delivering a heartbreaking defeat to her teammate that also served as a referendum on Colombia’s dominance in the discipline.

A similar situation could arise should Lopez and Valdez find themselves on the same side of the bracket in Yankton.

While both archers will enter the competition with aspirations of attaining personal glory, the two appear equally invested in continuing their country’s recent tradition of excellence

“We know we can face each other at some point in the World Cup Final, but I don’t see Sara as a rival, but as someone who is going to push me to be better,” Valdez said.

“I think that’s good,” she continued. “I know if I perform the best I can, the team will be better, and if Sara is better, the team will be better, and the same goes for Alejandra as well.”

“I’m never mad or sad if one of them wins because I know it's going to be good for the team and good for Colombia.”

The brackets at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final are decided in a random draw. Meeting later would be both a stroke of luck – and a fitting conclusion to an encouraging season for the squad.

“That’s one of the greatest things we have at Colombia,” Valdez said. “We push ourselves, each one of us, to be better, which raises the competition level and helps us to improve. The level is so high that if we give the best of ourselves, chances are that we are going to be able to win.”

Yankton will be Valdez’s debut at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final, while Lopez is attempting to win a record sixth title. Waiting until the final stage of the season to qualify was out of character for the veteran, but she is nonetheless positioned to add another gold medal to her bounty.

“Unfortunately Alejandra couldn’t go, but we [already] had a Colombian in the final, which made us very proud,” said Lopez, alluding to Valdez’s arrival as an individual performer, as well as a member of an already world-champion team.

Nora defeated Lopez earlier in the season at the 2021 Pan American Championships, winning gold to headline an all-Colombian compound women’s podium.

The Colombian compound women compete at stage three of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris, France.

In Paris, the nation won women’s team gold and the mixed team came in second, followed again with appearances by Lopez and Usquiano in the women’s individual final.

Colombia is aiming for similar success at the Hyundai Archery World Championships – also in Yankton – and the individual archers are equipped to shift seamlessly from teammates to short-term opponents when the situation arises.

Colombia’s success is their own. The pandemic was tough, as it was worldwide, and the compound team wasn’t able to travel to the second stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Lausanne – the only stage in which the women didn’t win individual gold.

The opportunity to take victory at one of these two major events to close the country, said Valdez, is a shot at pride far beyond personal accolades.

“I try to think of my country as the people who I love,” she said. “Because while the country is a lot bigger than that – there’s a lot of people who live here – it’s beautiful to know that you can bring joy to people who you don't even know… and to represent my country, I’m so happy and so grateful.”

The international archery season concludes with the Hyundai World Archery Championships and Hyundai Archery World Cup Final back-to-back in Yankton, USA.