Sonnichsen’s triple gold leads Danish medal haul

The Danish compound team need little introduction, producing consistent medal results over the last few seasons and a reigning World Archery Champion in Stephan Hansen. But after Tanja Jensen unceremoniously ended Sara Lopez’s winning streak on the competition field on Thursday afternoon, suddenly the door opened to an extraordinary haul on compound Saturday in Antalya. 

Denmark took gold medals in the men’s team, women’s team, mixed team and women’s individual, marking the squad’s most successful World Cup archery trip of all time – and five medals in total for the six-strong team. 

The biggest winner was Sarah Sonnichsen, who took gold in all her matches, including an individual women’s final against her teammate, Jensen. Sonnichsen dominated the match from the off and led by three points after the third end, but a loose eight in the fourth nudged the door ajar for a comeback.

Jensen couldn’t slip through, and Sonnichsen took the Antalya title by a single point. 

Astonishingly, the world number two had taken a silver medal in each of the same events in Shanghai last month. “Having a triple gold here is incredible. It’s nothing like I expected. It’s an amazing feeling to have right now,” she said. 

Sonnichsen found the conditions in Antalya difficult.

“It's not easy. It's insanely hot out there. Your hand and the release and the bow grip is kind of sliding. So everything is a bit sticky. I've been dreaming about getting in the pool,” she said.

How has the team managed such incredible results here?

“The level at home is so high. As a team we have grown a lot, and I think this year is going to be really good. Last year we had really good competitions and really bad competitions. This year we are more consistent in our scores and shooting, it's really grown stronger. It's kinda awesome. We spend way too much time together!” 

Martin Damsbo was on coaching duties for the team at these finals.

“We’ve known each other for so long, we help each other out, so if there’s people shooting and one person who’s not, we’re going to step in, and for the last few times, that’s been me, so I’m stepping up and playing coach. I’ve known some of this team since they were juniors, so I know what to say to them,” he explained.

“Many people would like to know why Denmark are producing these results. If you can tell me, let me know! I think we have a great system at home with juniors coming up, everyone helping each other up as much as we can, we’re in a small country where we can drive 30 minutes and we’re all together again.”

“I know in the USA they always have to go and shoot all these tournaments for a lot of money, so they have to win to make money. None of us get paid for shooting. We get some sponsors and a little funding, but we are just really lucky that we have a good dynamic on the team.”

In the compound women’s bronze medal match, world number one Sara Lopez had no trouble dispatching Iranian debutante Parisa Baratchi, who couldn’t find the 10-ring nearly as often as she had in the elimination rounds. After winning the previous five stages of the circuit, stretching back to 2015, Lopez looked just as happy with each 10 she landed as if she was shooting for another title.

The only other medal matches not featuring the Danish team came in the compound men’s individual competition.

Veteran World Cup archers Sergio Pagni, from Italy, and Braden Gellenthien, from USA, contested the bronze match, with Gellenthien winning by a single point in match he took with all-out consistency. 

In the headline compound men’s gold medal match, Chen Hsiang-Hsuan of Chinese Taipei defeated Steve ‘Big Cat’ Anderson to take his first individual title. Anderson dropped three points in a rough second end with Chen going clean. In windy conditions, he managed to narrow the gap to two in the next, but the damage was done.

Anderson admitted that he needs a few arrows to settle down in a finals match.

“In a wind like this, you’re having a hard time aiming and executing, and you’re not finding your rhythm. It was tough. I would have loved it to be gold, but stepping on the podium is always great, it’s never a failed tournament when that happens,” he said.

The second stage of the 2017 Hyundai Archery World Cup runs 6 to 11 June in Antalya, Turkey.