Baku 2015: Italy twice, Spain, Ukraine and Germany win gold
A total of 128 archers competed at Baku 2015 – Europe’s first official continental Games.
Like the Olympic programme, archery at Baku included individual and team target archery competitions – but unlike at any Olympiad to date, the first European Games also had a mixed team event.
Europe’s best archery athletes competed in Tofiq Bahramov Stadium over seven gruelling competition days in “the city of the wind”.
Germany’s ladies took top seeds after qualification, at the start of the week, with Lisa Unruh landing number one, ahead of Denmark’s reigning world champion, Maja Jager, and Natalia Valeeva from Italy.
The German girls, highly tipped for a medal, struggled in the eliminations, as did seeded favourite Lisa – but Karina Winter did well. She cruised through the brackets and, finally, into a gold medal match against Jager.
Karina, world indoor champ in ’09, went 2-0 down after the first set to the quiet Dane, who will defend her world title on home soil at Copenhagen 2015. She quickly recovered, dragging the match back to 2-2, then to 4-2 – before finishing with a perfect fourth set, three 10s, and securing the first individual European Games title.
“I shot so many 10s today,” said Winter after the finals. “Two perfect scores, it was just amazing. I had that feeling, I was in that flow, I was so confident and focused.”
The runner-up, who has become a high-profile sporting figure in Denmark as expectation builds for the summer’s worlds, was gracious in defeat: “Karina shot really well. She has been in the game a while and she deserves to win.”
In the women’s team event, Italy’s Guendalina Sartori, Elena Tonetta and Natalia Valeeva staged a dramatic win over Belarus to win gold. It was a second Baku title for veteran Valeeva after she won the mixed team event with Mauro Nespoli.
“It is the first gold medal for Italy at the European Games and this makes me very proud,” Nespoli said, after beating Georgia.
Ukraine took out Russia with a perfect 30 shoot-off to secure women’s team bronze – and Slovenia to mixed team bronze.
The Ukrainian men found themselves in a sudden death situation, like their compatriot women’s squad, for a shot at team gold. Beijing 2008 Olympic Champion Viktor Ruban, with long-time teammates Markiyan Ivashko and Heorhiy Ivanytskyy, helped Ukraine twice come back from a set down to force a regulation draw with Spain.
Ruban loosed the first arrow in the decider.
…and it was too much pressure for Juan Ignacio Rodriguez, who could only manage a six.
“We have a good team,” said Ivashko. “Good guys, good training staff and, most importantly, a good relationship between us as teammates.”
The top-qualifying Netherlands men beat France in a shoot-off to Baku team bronze.
Rick van der Ven and Sjef van den Berg, the individual number two and three seeds respectively, had shots at a second medal each in the individual event. But that was upset in the quarterfinals when Anton Prilepov, from Belarus, beat Rick 6-4.
Two Dutch scalps in a row proved too much for Prilepov, however – and Sjef avenged his teammate in the semis, in straight sets, to punch his ticket into the gold final.
Anton Prilepov took bronze consolation by beating Poland’s Slawomir Naploszek 7-3.
Sjef started the final archery match of the Baku 2015 Games as the favourite against Spain’s Miguel Alvarino Garcia, seeded 12th. But things did not go Dutchman’s way. The two archers tied the first, then the Spaniard won the rest of the way.
Miguel shot less reds, more 10s.
Sjef was delighted with silver: “It’s a massive thing for me! I shot great this week and felt strong, confident in the finals.”
“I feel like I won silver, not lost gold.”
“The final was tough. Garcia shot great – and massive congratulations to him.”