Could Gabriela Bayardo become the next female Dutch Olympian?

3 March 2019
The world number 21 represented Mexico at the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

Gabriela Bayardo made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016. She finished fifth with the Mexican recurve women’s team and 17th individually. Less than one year later, she moved to the Netherlands and started the 12-month break from international competition that’s required to switch teams.

“Ever since I shared my decision to shoot for the Netherlands they have helped and encouraged me to do so,” Gaby said last July. “The team has been very welcoming.”

She debuted for the Dutch squad at the Hyundai Archery World Cup stage in Salt Lake City in 2018. She promptly became the first recurve woman representing the Netherlands to feature in a medal match in the circuit’s 13-year history, finishing fourth.

Bayardo adds a quality to the nation’s athlete pool that hasn’t been seen since the Netherlands last had a recurve women compete at the Olympic Games.

That was in 1996, when Christel Verstegen and Ludmilla Arzhannikova – who was a former representative of the Soviet Union – shot in Atlanta. Arzhannikova placed 17th.

Could Bayardo, now emigrated from Mexico, be the next female Olympian from the Netherlands?

“To be honest, me and the Dutch Olympic Committee are doing everything to try and be at the Olympics but we’re not sure if it’s going to be possible,” she said.

Aside from addressing the administration of changing national resident, the Netherlands would also have to secure an Olympic quota place.

The qualification process for Tokyo 2020 officially begins at the upcoming World Archery Championships – being held on Bayardo’s new home soil in the Netherlands.

After an indoor season that saw her take silver medals at the GT Open and Roma Archery Trophy, and finish seventh at the Indoor Archery World Series Final, she’s in with a shooting chance.

“My indoor season deserves an eight [out of 10], I’m really happy with it – and I expected outdoors to be just as good,” said Gaby.

“I’m more stable now, more secure about myself and my shooting. I see the old Gaby and that she always wanted more but didn’t know how to get it; now I care about me and my shooting more than before.”

Her new Dutch teammates have experience performing at the highest level.

Sjef van den Berg finished fourth at Rio 2016, Rick van der Ven fourth at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Gaby’s partner, Mike Schloesser, is the world’s top-ranked compound man.

But her old squad wasn’t bad either – Aida Roman was the silver medallist in London.

“I do miss my Mexican teammates. We don’t talk every day but sometimes we text just to see how the other is doing, especially Aida,” said Bayardo.

“But I’m also happy that I have the chance to be in such a good team and train together with Mike, Steve Wijler, Rick and the others.”

Other female archers to have successfully represented more than one country include Khatuna Lorig (Soviet Union, Georgia, USA) and Natalia Valeeva (Soviet Union, Moldova, Italy).