Medellin finals preview: Recurve Saturday

That’s right, you read correctly: It is recurve Saturday this time around. The finals days were switched to allow athletes time to travel to the Olympic test event, which starts on Monday in Rio de Janeiro.

For the second year in a row, the finals of the Archery World Cup stage in Colombia take place in Parque Norte, a hub for activity and a popular place for Medellin locals to spend their free time.

This weekend, the park will feature its normal amusement park rides, beautiful gardens – and a crucial recurve women’s bronze final with implications in Archery World Cup qualification.

There’s one space left in the division for Mexico City. If Le Chien-Ying wins the match, that space is hers – but if she loses, it goes to the USA’s Khatuna Lorig.

Here are our picks for recurve Saturday in Medellin…

Recurve women’s individual gold final (afternoon session): Lee Tuk Young / Hong Sunam 

Lee Tuk Young started shooting internationally 10 years ago – the same year she became World Archery Champion at the Madrid 2005 worlds, aged just 15, with the Korean women’s team. She took silver individually, too.

As part of the alternate Korean team shooting in Medellin (the normal squad travelled early to Rio), Lee’s campaign to the gold medal match started with her leading the qualification round with 677 points.

She then beat Canadian athlete Georcy-Stephanie Thiffeault Picard and China’s Xu Jing, 6-2, in her first two matches. Laura Ruggieri fell in the quarters – then Lee beat Chinese Taipei’s Le Chien-Ying in five sets in the semifinals.

Her gold final opponent is teammate and international debutant Hong Sunam.

Seeded sixth, Hong also beat a Chinese Taipei athlete in the semis in five sts: Le’s teammate, Tan Ya-Ting.

Advantage: Lee

Recurve women’s individual bronze final (afternoon session): Le Chien-Ying / Tan Ya-Ting

Olympians Le Chien-Ying and Tan Ya-Ting have plenty of gold, silver and bronze medals in their hauls with the Chinese Taipei women’s and mixed teams – though their individual records are less decorated.

In Medellin, Tan was the second seed, Le the fifth – but the Medellin bronze is not what’s at stake in this match-up.

If Le wins the match, she qualifies for the Mexico City 2015 Archery World Cup Final. If she loses, the last spot on the roster goes to Khatuna Lorig of the USA.

Advantage: Push

Recurve men’s individual gold final (afternoon session): Im Dong Hyun / Xing Yu

Two-time team Olympic Champion and 72-arrow ranking round world record holder Im Dong Hyun returned to the international archery circuit in style.

He led recurve men’s qualification from beginning to end. His 688 total was 11 shy of the world-best mark he set at London 2012, but more than enough to take top seed in Medellin.

Im beat the USA’s Brady Ellison, Jay Lyon from Canada and Dutchman Rick Van Der Ven in no more than four sets. He was clinical.

The athlete to stand in the way of a comeback gold for the famous Im Dong Hyun? China’s Ogden 2009 stage bronze medallist, Xing Yu.

Earlier in 2015, Xing won team gold and mixed team silver in Antalya. He had two straight-set wins to start his Medellin matches, but needed a shoot-off to advance past Chinese Taipei’s Wei Chun-Heng.

Yu won the tiebreaker with an X10.

A second shoot-off in the quarterfinals, against Korea’s Lee Seungshin, went Xing Yu’s way with a closer nine – before the Chinese athlete reverted to a more formulaic victory in the semis: 7-3 over Mitch Dielemans from the Netherlands.

Xing’s had a good individual campaign, but stopping the Im Dong Hyun train – fueled by two years of pent-up determination – will be tough.

Advantage: Im

Recurve men’s individual bronze final (afternoon session): Rick Van Der Ven / Mitch DielemAns

A guaranteed bronze for the Netherlands – but only one of Rick van der Ven and Mitch Dielemans can win it. Good friends both on- and off-the-field, when it comes to shooting against each other and fighting for a medal – said Rick – they are not.

Ranked fourth, Copenhagen 2015 silver medallist Rick lost to two-time Olympic Champion Im Dong Hyun in the semifinals, 6-2.

Mitch was ranked just 42nd, but flipped his fortunes in the third round when he beat JC Valladont in a shoot-off, after the pair tied their five sets.

He then knocked out Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Marcus D’Almeida in the fourth – and Nanjing 2014 Champion Lee Woo Seok in the quarterfinals, in another shoot-off.

Mitch’s run was stopped by Xing Yu in the semis, and that match needed the full five sets.

Shooting for more than five years together, travelling together and even winning some matches on the same team, this should be a good one.

Advantage: Van der ven

Recurve mixed team gold final (afternoon session): Korea  / China 

Korea’s Im Dong Hyun faces Xing Yu in the recurve men’s final – but that won’t be his first crack at the Chinese athlete on the day.

Im, paired with Lee Tuk Young, have an early opportunity to put on a show of force, before the individual matches take centre stage.

Advantage: Korea

Recurve women’s team gold final (morning session): Korea  / Chinese Taipei 

A completely different team than the one that picked up Shanghai gold and Antalya silver earlier in 2015 – but one that is no less potent.

Top seeds, the Korean alternate recurve women’s team has only Medellin as international practice together. Whether that will matter is a different story.

The strong Chinese Taipei squad, shut out of the recurve women’s podium until Medellin in 2015, will want to finish on a high.

Advantage: Chinese Taipei

Recurve men’s team gold final (morning session): USA  / Korea 

Consistent through each the stages of the 2015 Archery World Cup, Korea and the USA started fast. In Medellin, the two teams seeded first and second with 2036 and 1999 points on the ranking round, respectively.

Im Dong Hyun and Brady Ellison were on the Korea and USA teams that met each other in the semifinals of London 2012. The underdog States won and propelled themselves to Olympic silver. Korea settled for bronze.

For the history alone, it could be the most exciting match of the day. And with that record it’s one we don’t dare predict…

Advantage: Push