World #11 Kroppen no longer the third member of German team of equals
Michelle Kroppen finished fourth in the recurve women’s event at the 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships in ’s-Hertogenbosch, where the German recurve women’s team also secured a full quota for Tokyo 2020.
Despite fielding a consistently talented line-up over the last decade, next summer’s Olympics will be the first to feature three women from Germany – and a team – since Athens in 2004. How much of that is to do with Kroppen’s arrival?
The 23-year-old shot in the junior ranks internationally until 2016. She stepped up to the senior level in 2017 as European Games Champion Karina Winter retired.
“I wanted to try to be as good as them. That meant checking my technique and doing lots of video analysis. For a long time, I thought I needed to have a technique like Lisa or any other good archer. I was looking at so many finals and trying to do it like them,” she said.
“But last year I decided I have to find my own thing, my own bow setup, technique, whatever works best for me.”
Lisa, Elena and Michelle came second in the team event at the Hyundai Archery World Cup stage in Antalya in 2018.
At the next event of the international circuit, in Salt Lake City, Michelle had her first individual success. She made the final, eventually finishing runner-up to Deepika Kumari.
“The silver medal gave me a big opportunity to see that my technique could grow. I ended up talking to myself ‘work on your technique and you could be as good as Lisa and Elena’,” she said. “And now I have my own things, it’s better than copying someone else.”
Born and raised in the west of Germany, Michelle now lives at the German Olympic training centre near Berlin with her teammates.
Since the three women have been shooting together, they’ve medalled at least once each year. That includes taking an indoor world team title in Yankton in 2018.
And over the last two years, it was only a single time that the trio only finished outside of the top eight. Arriving at the world championships in 2019, where all the quarterfinalists qualified Olympics spaces, it was a statistic that carried weight.
“When I started shooting in the senior team, I was like, ‘okay, let’s try it and go for the 2024 Olympics’,” she said. “I was thinking about a slow start, but we then started shooting well, we got some team medals fast and I thought I could do it.”
At the ’s-Hertogenbosch 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships, Germany qualified fourth. It meant they would have to win just one match – against Mexico – to also win three quota places for Tokyo 2020.
“I didn’t know what was happening. Everyone was talking about the quota places, the tournament, how big it was, and I was just shooting,” said Michelle.
“I only got nervous probably about five minutes before the match started.”
The 15 minutes that decide the bulk of the team quotas for the Games are electric. There’s not the spectators or the show of a finals match but just 16 teams, eight matches, in a line on an eliminations field.
Winners go to the Games, losers do not. These German women – Michelle, Elena and Lisa – were winners.
“Elena was jumping around so happy, Lisa was crying and I didn’t know what was going on. Then they said, ‘we got the team quota place, we tried for so long’,” said Michelle.
“Everyone was so happy. And I’m part of that team.”
This German women’s team is one of three individuals, three talented and decorated international archers, and one that is surprisingly balanced. Kroppen, albeit the new member of the squad, is performing at the same level as Elena and Olympic silver medallist Lisa.
“Elena is a very good first archer, she does one shot and then tells us what we should do and where to aim, and that gives me a lot of confidence for what I have to do,” said Michelle, who sits second in the German rotation during finals. “Lisa is mentally stronger, so if we need a 10 to win, she’ll get the 10. I think that makes us so good.”
It was, in fact, Kroppen that did best of the German women individually at the worlds.
She dispatched highly ranked Chinese pair Meng Fanxu and An Qixuan in the eliminations before coming unstuck first against world number one Kang Chae Young and then her Korean teammate Choi Misun to end the event in fourth.
It’s resulted in her moving up to the number 11 spot in the world rankings, only three places behind Lisa.
While national selections will decide which archers will fill the quota places Germany now owns for Tokyo, it seems unlikely the line-up will change. Not while this team, finally, has a chance to compete at the Olympics.
But when the time comes for new faces, Michelle expects to be there, too.
“I want to help the new juniors and cadets make a big team,” she said. “So, if Lisa and Elena stop, I have lots of experience that I can share with the upcoming talents like they did with me.”
The fourth stage of the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Cup took place on 1-7 July in Berlin, Germany.