Young archers right on target at Buenos Aires 2018
The three archery events attracted large crowds at Parque Sarmiento, where the USA’s Trenton Cowles shone brighter than most, winning bronze in the mixed international team competition and gold in the men’s recurve individual. China’s Mengyao Zhang took the honours in the women’s individual competition, while France’s Kyla Touraine-Helias and Spain’s José Manuel Solera won the mixed team gold.
Touraine-Helias and Solera beat Argentina’s Agustina Giannasio and Thailand’s Aitthiwat Soithong by five set points to one to claim their title in style, having won all their matches by a comfortable margin.
Aged only 15, the two silver medallists were the youngest athletes in both their national delegations, with Giannasio earning rapturous applause from the home crowd after landing her medal.
“This is the nicest feeling I’ve ever had,” said the young Argentinian. “I was really nervous when I saw the size of the crowd here. My whole family, my friends and even people I don’t know came up to congratulate me and tell me how talented I was and how much I deserved it. I was crying then and I’m still crying now. People have been coming up and asking for photos too, and I’m like, ‘Why? I’m only an athlete!’ I’m just an ordinary person.”
Giannasio hopes her medal will increase archery’s popularity in Argentina and help her to study abroad one day. “This medal can open a lot of doors and I’m going to try and walk through as many as I can,” she added.
Cowles won his bronze with the assistance of Namibia’s Quinn Reddig, and the American archer would soon be climbing even higher on the podium.
Individual golds for Cowles and Mengyao
Three days after collecting that mixed team bronze, Cowles took the men’s individual title without dropping a set, recording 6-0 victories in the quarter-final, semi-final and final, where he defeated India’s Akash Malik in challenging, windy conditions.
“I’m so happy that my hard work has paid off,” said the US archer, who qualified for the elimination rounds in a lowly 15th place. “I’m just so happy and proud. I can relax now.
“I got lucky today because the wind’s a left-to-right wind, which for me as a leftie helps me brace my shot,” added Cowles, who is ambidextrous. “I think it’s a little advantage. On the mixed international team event, the wind was a right-to-left and it’s hard to keep your bow-arm up with contradicting winds to your bow-arm.”
The 16-year-old took up archery at the age of ten, after trying his hand at the sport in a video game. “I thought, ‘I want to try this in real life.’ I was really bad at it but I was determined to get good at it and now I’m here.”
After collecting his silver, Akash said: “I’ve been training for this but it was still tough out there.”
There was a surprise earlier in the competition, when the number one seeded Injun Song of Republic of Korea fell to a 7-1 quarter-final defeat to Belgium’s Senna Roos. Though Roos then lost to Akash in the semis, he bounced back to beat Artem Ovchynnikov 7-3 in the bronze medal match.
In the women’s competition, China’s Zhang topped the qualifying round with 675 points out of a possible 720 and then averaged a remarkable 28 points with every three arrows to secure the gold medal. Her first two victims were Kazakhstan’s Alexandra Voropayeva and Myanmar’s Pyae Sone Hnin, respectively beaten 7-1 and 6-0. After then trailing Republic of Korea’s Yeryeong Son 4-2 in the semi-finals, the Chinese archer fought back to win 6-4.
Facing Spain’s Elia Canales in final, Zhang pounced when her opponent shot sevens in the second and fourth set and eased to a 6-2 victory.
After collecting her gold, Zhang revealed that she had had the support of compatriot Li Jiaman, the winner of the event at the Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014. “I went to see her before I came to Buenos Aires,” revealed the new champion. “She shared her experience with me and told me a little bit about herself and about what it means to compete in such a special atmosphere as this. I’d like to thank her for that.”
Son, 15, secured the bronze with a 7-3 defeat of Mexico’s Valentina Vasquez Cadena.