Rio perspectives: From rookie to Olympic veteran
In archery’s history at the Olympic Games, only three athletes have hit six appearances: Natalia Valeeva, who announced her retirement from the sport arena in June during the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya, Ilario di Buo and Great Britain’s Alison Williamson.
At Rio 2016, the most capped on the field is Greece’s Evangelia Psarra, shooting at her fifth Olympics. She’s followed by six athletes at their fourth Olympics, 11 on three, 26 on two and the rest, 84, at their first.
There’s a breadth of experience – and athletes making new experiences – on the field.
5th Olympics – PSARRA
Evangelia Psarra first attendance at the Games was in Sydney in 2000, where she finished 40th. Her best appearance was at her home Olympics in Athens in 2004, where she came seventh in the individual competition and fifth with Greece’s recurve women’s team.
Rio, says Evangelina, has been good – as the weather is almost like Greece, her home country.
“I like it a lot here,” she said. “Compared to other Olympics, nothing has really changed much. We are 64 women, the same number of targets, same qualification round and we will all be shooting towards the same goal: give our best.”
“I can't say this will be my last Olympics. I have said that before and I just keep doing it. I love it, it's my life.”
4th Olympics – RUBAN
Olympic Champion Viktor Ruban has finished in the top seven at his three previous attendances at the Games prior to Rio. In Athens, he collected a bronze medal with the recurve men’s team, and then, in Beijing, he won individual gold.
Rio is Viktor’s first Games without a men’s squad, leaving his chances of a medal limited to his individual performance.
“It's a shame not having a men's team here with me but, individually, I will give my best to make the podium again. This is a beautiful venue and if we keep the sun we had at the official practice, it would be even better for us,” he said.
3rd Olympics – NESPOLI
Italian man Mauro Nespoli has collected one medal, with the men’s team, at each of the two Games he has been to. First, in Beijing, Italy won silver, then in London the team became the Olympic Champion. Will Rio be an opportunity to repeat the fest?
“Rio is a new competition, so I hope that our best is enough to be on the podium again,” said Mauro.
“It doesn’t matter the colour the medal, just winning one. The team is working well, we changed Michele Frangilli, who’s a legend in the sport, for Marco Galiazzo, who’s a two-time Olympic Champion [individually and with the team], so we can do well. We worked a lot for the team and individual competition and I’m looking forward to do the best I can do.”
“I like the venue and both the qualification and finals field, although is not easy to see how the wind works on it, but these conditions are the same for everybody.”
2nd Olympics – KI
At this year’s Games, reigning Olympic Champion Ki Bo Bae is the only archer that could win two consecutive Olympics individual golds, which has never been done before. (Only Darrell Pace has taken two at all, and he did not do it consecutively.)
“I'm focused on winning a gold medal with my teammates Chang and Choi. We are a good team, we have everything needed to win and we know it. About my individual performance I will worry later. Right now, the team is my priority,” she said.
1st Olympics – BAYARDO
In 2012, Mexican athletes Aida Roman and Mariana Avitia won women’s individual silver and bronze, respectively. In Brazil, Olympic debutant Gabriela Bayardo has joined Roman with another Games first-timer in Alejandra Valencia.
Bayardo expects to live up to the Mexican standard set in London.
“Everything is very pretty here in Rio, both the qualification and the finals field are looking good to me," Gabriela said. “Every time I hear ‘Olympics’, I get goosebumps. These are my first Games, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be my last ones.”
“With my teammates Aida and Alejandra, we are focused on giving our best because know we are good and that we can achieve something.”
“Individually, I think it would be good that an Olympic debuntant climbs the podium again. Ki Bo Bae was at her first Olympics and she won, maybe it’s the time for someone from the Americas…”
“…why not me?”
The archery competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starts on the 5 August in the Sambodromo.