A wide open field in the Eternal City.
They expected 500. They got just over 648. The inaugural Roma Archery Trophy was a success. A major indoor event in Rome had been on the cards for a while for Fitarco, the Italian federation and one of the European powerhouses of the sport.
Holding the event at the immense Fieri di Roma exhibition complex on the outskirts of the city gives the federation the ability to expand the shoot to almost infinite capacity without issue, although the sheer distance from anything except the airport – Rome is a very big place – was not so helpful for anyone wanting to make a little holiday of it. The lighting was excellent and, unlike a few winter indoor events, the hall was the perfect temperature, too.
Italian archery is well known for a strong bare-bow tradition, and unlike most of the indoor series events Rome featured both barebow and longbow along with compound and recurve, with a full-strength international barebow field in attendance.
In the unique atmosphere of open indoor competition, where amateur archers from all over the world mix with the top professionals, Rome had the last three previous individual Olympic champions all slated to be attending: Viktor Ruban (2008), Oh Jin Hyek (2012) and Ku Bonchan (2016).
While Ruban made it in, and eventually finished sixth, neither Oh nor Ku made it to the line; they and several other members of the Hyundai Steel pro team never left South Korea, for reasons never quite explained, but thought to be due to the fallout from the cancellation of the Seoul stage a week later.
The separate Hyundai Mobis women’s team did make the trip, however, and dominated as expected.
With the field split into three qualification lines over two days, the first surprise was to see the USA’s Faith Miller, a sixteen-year-old cadet, putting in 594 out of a possible 600 points for the 60-arrow 18-metre ranking round to break the compound junior record by a point.
A tearful Miller was as astonished as everyone else, as it was her first international competition. In all events, the top 32 advanced; the recurve men’s cut in Rome was 563 points, recurve women’s 530, compound men’s 585 and compound women 568.
The newly crowned World Cup final champion Kris Schaff had an interesting weekend – without his bow. Due to airline mishaps, his kit didn’t arrive in Rome with him on Thursday, or (as promised) on Friday or Saturday.
“Yesterday they lost it.” he said.
“They had no idea where it was. During practice, I shot Tate Morgan’s bow, because we were on different qualifying times. But I got to thinking, what happens if we both make the cut?”
A radical solution was needed, and he ended up borrowing Toja Ellison’s spare bow, which was not set up for her. “I used her sight and her rest, Tate’s stabilisers yesterday, Logan [Wilde]’s stabilisers today, Logan’s release, Toja’s arrows.”
Did her arrows fit you?
“I’d say there’s about a sixty-fourth of an inch in it.”
It was not the first time airline issues had forced a top competitor to borrow equipment, but what was more surprising is that Schaff then went on an astonishing run all the way to the bronze medal match, posting 150s along the way. In the end he placed fourth, but not without writing another chapter in the compound sportsmanship books.
On the recurve side, Gabriella Bayardo continued her run of form, defeating world record holder Kang “The Destroyer” Chae Young in the semifinal to guarantee another indoor podium place. In the final, her form ran out against South Korean pro Kim Surin, with both giving solid entertainment on the main stage.
On the men’s side, Crispin Duenas and Brady Ellison both qualified top with 593, with a coin toss separating the two. They would meet again in the final, but Duenas, on the way to gold, dropped just three points – three!
Every single other end in his bracket was a 30, finishing off with three perfect ends to take the final 6-0 against a surprised-looking Ellison, who didn’t produce his usual indoor form at the business end of things. It was an emphatic win for the ‘Black Duck’, who had a good 2018 both inside and out.
In the barebow competition, the senior men’s division contained all the top international competitors who had already battled it out several times this year. In the end, it was Spain’s David Garcia Fernandez, twice a world field silver medallist, who would take the target title over Stig Berget of Norway. Cinzia Noziglia, the Italian multiple world champion and World Games champion in Wroclaw in 2017, took the barebow women’s title.
“It’s been a great time for barebow in indoor competitions, considering it’s not usually included in the most important events. I felt so happy for sharing the experience of shooting with so many champions,” said Noziglia.
Alexis Ruiz of the USA won her second stage of the series, taking senior compound gold and capping a strong meet for the American contingent. After winning the Macau Open just two weeks ago, she beat Mariya Shkolna in a lopsided final, 147 points to 139, to take gold in Rome, too. “I felt great here.” she said, “I’ve been training so much to be here. It’s been such a hard weekend, but it ended up winning.”
The British recurve contingent had a good meet, with Tom Hall, Sarah Bettles and junior Rachel Moon reaching the quarterfinals.
Tom, who qualified in seventh place, won two matches to leave him facing second seed Brady Ellison, who beat him 7-3, but needed five sets to do it. Bettles, who had podiumed in Strassen, ranked eighth, but eventually lost to Kim Chaeyun, with Moon losing out to eventual gold medallist Olha Shubkina.
After three events of the 2019 Indoor Archery World Series, there’s a three-way tie in the recurve men’s elite ranking lead between Duenas, Steve Wijler and Oh Jin Hyek, all on 250 points after respective wins, with Bayardo (345) and Ruiz (500) leading the recurve women’s and compound women’s lists, respectively.
Mike Schloesser, who finished the Roma Trophy in ninth, retained the top spot in the compound men’s ranking with 330 points, 20 ahead of Domagoj Buden of Croatia.
Despite a handful of teething problems – and some frankly ropey TV coverage – there was a positive atmosphere in the room over the three says and the competition was generally excellent. Braden Gellenthien summed up a few thoughts after his final gold medal winning match.
“I felt so confident in shooting here, it was a good weekend. I enjoy Rome, I love the city, the food, everything is amazing. It’s been great to win, after winning at the World Cup Final here last year. Rome is my lucky city, I will be here again next year, for sure.”
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