Lopez, Ellison’s quests for record-sixth titles alive in Yankton

Brady Ellison shoots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Both have held up their ends of the bargain. 

Perhaps there was no greater storyline entering this international season more than Brady Ellison and Sara Lopez’s pursuit of a record-sixth title at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final – but, with the Olympics taking much of the attention and in a year of return after the pandemic, it slid somewhat under the radar.

Ellison set the pace two years ago with a fifth crown in 2019, just one impressive accolade from that exceptional pre-pandemic campaign. That came one day after Lopez bagged trophy number five, too – winning her fourth in the past five editions of the season-ending event.

But the possibility of each resetting their own records appeared in the balance to start the year. 

Ellison suffered a shocking second-round upset at the first stage of the international circuit in Guatemala City, while Lopez lost in the quarterfinals.

While Ellison restored order to the universe by claiming a pair of gold medals at stages two and three, Lopez didn’t solidify her automatic bid until beating teammate Alejandra Usquiano in a dramatic final in Paris, securing her attendance in Yankton later this month and keeping her quest for a new record alive.

“I feel really good, because at the beginning of the year things were not looking so good, but I was able to qualify in Paris in a very exciting match against Alejandra,” Lopez said. The result also knocked Usquiano, the circuit champion in 2013, out of the line-up. “I know it is going to be a different kind of final because last year there wasn’t one and this year we have new faces in the final.”

Ellison opened this season in the dominant form that made him the world’s number ranked archer.

He qualified top in Guatemala, though suffered the kind of surprise upset that internationals are wont to throw up, every now and again, and then preceded to take gold at legs two and three.

Had there been spectators in Tokyo, the crowd that Brady so thrives upon, you wonder if the Olympics in Japan might have gone more his way.

The crowd will be back for the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in Yankton.

And as the second of back-to-back major tournaments in this hub of the sport, both will be hoping they enter the arena for the second event, the circuit finale, with medal-winning experience earned in the Hyundai World Archery Championships, held immediately previous.

Sara Lopez has five Hyundai Archery World Cup Final titles.

It won’t be easy.

We’re used to seeing these two win – and it’s easy to forget just how impressive the results, and their shared record, is. 

Lopez thinks the rest of the compound women’s field has caught up to her exceptionally high standard. 

The 26-year-old, who has set almost all the world records available, made a significant leap about four years ago. These days, archers like Denmark’s Tanja Gellenthien and her own Colombian teammate Nora Valdez appear to be able to keep pace.

“The focus of these past few years has been, ‘who can dethrone Sara?’ Lopez said.

“I realised that just as I dethroned the person before, someone can dethrone me and that I cannot consider myself invincible.”

She won’t go down easily. Lopez may not appear as dominant as she has in past seasons, but she is still a resilient force. Both she and Ellison will not yield their thrones willingly. If someone is going to beat them, they’re going to have to earn it.

The question is, over the three matches it takes to lift the trophy, who else would you take?

Brady Ellison and Sara Lopez are five-time Hyundai Archery World Cup Champions for a reason. This year, maybe, isn’t so much a race to six – but, in this important and even emotional season after a season without the sport, a reminder that we’ve watched these two legendary athletes in their prime.

And it isn’t over yet.

The 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup Final takes places on 29-30 September in Yankton, USA.