It’s May, and the 2017 international outdoor season is about to start in full. One of the most packed schedules ever seen will climax with the World Championships in Mexico City in mid-October.
Before that there’s an intriguing Hyundai World Cup calendar to enjoy with two new(ish) venues and a spectacular final in Rome.
Shanghai is the perennial season opener, and since last year boasting a new finals field on the Lujiazui Village Green in the central Pudong district. The first fixture of the season since 2012, the 2017 start list will see teams from all continents appear at full strength. The usually still conditions at qualification in the Yuanshen Stadium are ideal for record breaking; last year Deepika Kumari matched the women’s record and Brady Ellison came close, shooting the then-third highest score in history. It will be interesting to see the new debutantes on the circuit too.
In June, the action moves to Antalya and the melting Mediterranean heat. Last year saw June temperatures hitting 40 °C for the weekend. The attractive location and top-class accommodation in this beach resort means it’s usually one of the most popular stages on the circuit, but with the new locations and multiple events this year many budget-conscious teams are treating it as an option rather than a must-do – and the Koreans are apparently skipping it altogether.
Just a week later the action moves to the Easton Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the first stage in the USA since it was successfully held in nearby Ogden from 2010-2012. Perhaps the most exciting stage of this year’s season, it has long been an ambition of Greg Easton to return the World Cup to the USA, and the Salt Lake facility was built with this ambition in mind. It will be the first of three annual stages in Salt Lake City.
It is clear the American archery elite are keen to made the upcoming editions something very special, and use the stage as a springboard to really develop archery as a spectator sport in the US. They’re keen to put on a big welcome too. Sarah Bernstein, the USA archery PR was bullish: “We expect… phenomenal turnout from both local and national media, as well as volunteers and fans coming from the Salt Lake community and around the nation. We will have an amazing airport welcoming committee, and we are recruiting volunteers who speak multiple languages and are engaging the community to be as involved and welcoming as possible.” (P.S. they’re looking for both sponsors and volunteers: interested volunteers should contact email@example.com and interested sponsors and vendors may reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org).
OK, but what is the weather going to be like? “Currently, the prediction for our event is sunny and temperatures in the low 80F (27°C) range. But historically, Salt Lake City has run the gamut of weather conditions in June; we’ve had snow, rain, hot sun, wind, absolutely unpredictable weather. We are hopeful for ideal weather conditions and want the best possible shooting conditions for all our international athletes. We are so prepared for any type of weather we might incur and the show will go on!”
The other big news about Salt Lake is that apparently there are more than just rumours of a big US TV deal in the works, too. It may be a lot easier to watch the USA World Cup – if you live in the USA, anyway. 🙂
From there the circuit returns to Europe and the first ever World Cup stage held in Berlin, Germany, also the first of a three year stint. The qualification field is next to the iconic Olympiastadion, used for the 1936 Olympic Games, and the finals will be held next to the ruined facade of the old Anhalter Bahnhof railway station in a temporary 2000 seat arena.
Like Salt Lake, the Berlin stage has been a long time in the making. I asked Jorge Brokamp, secretary-general of the German Archery Federation, what we could expect:
“The idea to host a World Archery World Cup was born right after the very successful World Championship in Leipzig in 2007…. First of all we hope for a positive further development of the World Cup events of World Archery. Berlin is the capital of Germany and one of the most popular, attractive and ambitious cities in Europe and therefore excellently suited for hosting such a big event. After the success of the German participants in Rio and the elevated interest in archery television broadcast during the Olympic Games we would like to use the positive progress in archery in Germany. For the first time the both biggest television broadcasters in Germany, ARD and ZDF, will broadcast live from both final days.”
Due to the fact that we got the acceptance for the bid for three years we want to achieve a positive effect on archery in Germany in general and especially a development of our national championships as “Bundesliga” or “Deutsche Meisterschaften”. Because of the attractiveness of Berlin as location and a professional German organization with a very good price-performance ratio we expect a high-rated number of participants… Additionally we will provide free access to the public transport so that every accredited participant can experience Berlin. The combination of the professional sport, the personal experience and the hospitality of the people will make the World Cup Berlin unique.”
What’s the weather going to be like, Jorge? “In August there will be the best weather conditions in Berlin. We expect warm days, not too windy with lots of sunshine. The qualification will take place on the Maifeld near the Olympia Stadium, exactly the same spot where the polo competitions were held during the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. The Maifeld will provide a perfect location with an amazing ambience. There we will create optimal conditions for the athletes to achieve the highest performance. So it is very likely that we might see a ranking round record getting broken.”
The bums-on-seats successes of the 2013 Paris World Cup final stage and the Copenhagen world championships indicate that a major European city stage would make a good entertaining break for archers and archery fans, and the city seems very much behind it – it could be very popular indeed. The grand final stage will be held in Rome in October, at the Stadio dei Marmi, the ‘Stadium Of The Marbles’; a grandiose backdrop to the conclusion of the World Cup season.
Well before that, Taiwan will hold the Universiade, the world university multi-sport games, held in Taipei City. Last held in Gwangju in Korea in 2015, this competition was notable for the Chinese Taipei women’s team beating the mighty Korean women on home turf, as well as Ki Bo Bae setting the current women’s ranking round world record. Chinese Taipei, despite taking an Olympic medal last year, have not yet proved their ranking on the world stage, and much will again be expected this year. With a huge number of well-known archers still ‘at university’ (at least technically, anyway 🙂 ) this will likely see many top names performing.
The end of July will see the World Games held in the former World Cup city of Wroclaw, Poland. The World Games is an event for disciplines not seen at the Olympics, and features compound target and recurve field archery, this year in a new format tested at Dearne Valley in the UK. This edition should see better TV coverage as well, at least on the internet. I hope they get it right, and field archery starts becoming the spectator draw it could be, or should be.
The big showdown comes in October, when Mexico City will be the venue for the World Championships. The Mexican capital has been investing in big sporting events recently – the NFL and Formula 1 will also visit in 2017 – and the city was persuaded to invest in the 2015 World Cup final and this year’s event after the ‘Mexico Challenge’ events of 2013 and 2014, featuring the elite of world archers, attracted a huge audience. The World Championships often throws up surprising results too. Who will carry off the big gongs this time round?
As well as all that, don’t forget the World Para-Championships in Beijing in mid-September, or the World Youth championships in Rosario, Argentina, shortly after the World 3D championships in France. All that, and the Asian Championships too, which the second tier Korean recurve squad teams get to contest as a consolation prize.
TRENDS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Money problems. With such a vast number of events to cover in expensive cities, national archery team budgets are going to be stretched to the absolute limit. Several high-profile squads are making stages like Antalya a self-funding trip, and others are skipping some World Cup stages altogether to focus teams or cash on the Universiade and/or the World Championships. Expect to see some unfamiliar names in familiar shirts here and there.
A new Korean star emerging? With such an extraordinary depth of talent and such a starry squad emerging from the process this year, is this going to be the year we see someone new carry off the bigger prizes? Kang “The Destroyer” Chae Young, fourth last year, found enough steel to place second behind Choi Misun in the selection, which might just indicate she has what it takes to do something very special. Choi Misun, for her part has a point to prove; almost certainly the best recurve archer in the world, she will have to demonstrate it by taking a major title.
Men & women’s recurve ranking round world records to fall. The women’s mark of 686 was matched twice last year, and with the gradual creeping of scores over the last Olympiad and some of the elite men reporting astronomical practice scores well over 700, it seems entirely possible that both ranking round marks may go in 2017. If the weather plays ball, it’s definitely on the cards.
Sara Lopez to continue domination… maybe. With Crystal Gauvin switching to recurve for an attempt at Tokyo 2020, one of her major rivals has gone and the Colombian has now not been beaten at world level for nearly two whole years since losing to Gauvin in Copenhagen in 2015.
One of just a handful of women who is capable of beating her is Tanja Jensen of Denmark, who destroyed the indoor arenas this year and has plenty of big stage experience. It can be done. Can she do it?
USA men’s recurve team to take a World Cup stage. The men’s team final in Rio was very much the archery match of the Olympics , and showed the deep strengths of the men in red over the last year or so, although the USA women’s recurve side were in disarray. If they are out at full strength and maintain form, it seems likely they will take a stage win somewhere.
So what do you think will happen. Let us know!