Polish archers podium as archery’s return to competition concludes in Antalya

4 October 2020
Antalya, Turkey
The 2020 Antalya International Challenge was archery’s first international event since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poland’s Lukasz Przybylski and Magdalena Smialkowska claimed their first international podiums as they won the compound men’s and recurve women’s events, respectively, at the 2020 International Antalya Challenge.

Artem Makhnenko of Russia and Andrea Marcos of Spain also collected victories at this first major tournament following the end of the competition hiatus, which was in place from March to September due to the worldwide pandemic.

More than 100 archers from 13 countries competed in Antalya.

Przybylski shot an impressive qualification round to seed second behind home favourite Evren Cagiran of Turkey. The pair would eventually meet in the final – with the Polish archer appearing the underdog.

Trailing by three points after three arrows, Przybylski slowly eked his way back into the match. Cagiran had a chance to win the match with his last shot, but he landed a nine, leaving the contest tied at 145 apiece.

“I thought nothing,” said Przybylski. “I tried to make a good shot and not think about the outcome. So, make the good shot – and that‘s everything.”

The Polish archer delivered a 10.

Cagiran, although matching the arrow on points, couldn’t beat it on position – and Przybylski won the closest-to-the-centre shoot-off, making his first international podium finish a gold-medal-winning one.

The 26-year-old is likely to increase his current 33rd spot in the world rankings with the result.

Archery currently sits in a transition period. Athletes can add to their ranking points with results at major events – but no points will depreciate until at least the start of the outdoor season in 2021.

Magdalena Smialkowska also collected her first international podium in Antalya. 

The 22-year-old, who seeded 11th, was up against an even-more surprising finalist. Spain’s Sandra Cebrian ranked just 29th but upset former-world-number-three Inna Stepanova to spring her run at the medals.

In the final, Cebrian was undone not by her wobbly first set – but by eights in the second and fourth series. Smialkowska took advantage both times, winning those sets and eventually the match, 7-1.

“It’s a very good feeling. I don’t know what to say, I‘m very nervous now and so happy,” she said.

Smialkowska and Przybylski’s results point to a bright post-pandemic future for Poland, which hasn’t produced a consistent challenger for international wins since Justyna Mospinek and her Archery World Cup Champion season in 2008.

The remaining titles in Antalya were won by more experienced archers in Artem Makhnenko and Andrea Marcos.

The Spanish archer Marcos defeated Russian newcomer Elizaveta Knyazeva, 145-141, in the compound women’s final. Knyazeva had an early advantage but landed a pair of eights in the third and fourth ends to fall behind.

Marcos only got stronger as the match progressed.

“The finals are always very tense, so you take it arrow by arrow,” said the 31-year-old, who also works as a physiotherapist. “You get better toward the end because you lose those initial nerves. I wish I knew how to start the same way as I finish.”

Makhnenko also finished his final in style.

The Russian archer had shot a competition best of 685 points for the 72-arrow 70-metre ranking round, his first time over 680, on Friday to take the second seed in the recurve men’s event.

After top-ranked man Mete Gazoz fell to Federico Musolesi in a quarterfinal shoot-off, it was Musolesi’s Italian teammate Alessandro Paoli who faced Makhnenko for gold. 

It was not the cleanest of finals. They traded the first few sets and went into the fifth tied at 4-4. Paoli shot 29, while Makhnenko, with two 10s already in the target, calmly delivered his third to finish with a 30, taking the set and the match, 6-4.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything particular in that moment,” he said when asked about that high-pressure final arrow. “I just went out to the line and shot a 10.”

Currently ranked 13th in the world, the 24-year-old said he has been training at a 3-metre target in his apartment during the summer lockdown. The Russian team had a training camp in Turkey to prepare for this 70-metre tournament.

Aside from a lack of spectators, archers wearing masks in between ends or sets and the targets being set farther apart, there wasn’t much unusual about the finals in Antalya, the athletes said.

The successful completion of the tournament sets the tone for a return to more events in 2021.

Podiums

Archers are listed in order of final position (gold, silver, bronze).

The 2020 Antalya International Challenge, archery’s first world ranking event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, took place on 2-4 October 2020.

Photos by Saygin Akinci. Quotes by Oyku Ergec.