Third time lucky: Shkolna breaks silver streak for first win of 2023

Mariya Shkolna after winning in Umag.

Luxembourg’s Mariya Shkolna collected her first big victory of the year, in her third consecutive continental final, as Spain’s Elia Canales and Turkish duo Mete Gazoz and Batuhan Akcaoglu also won individual titles during yesterday’s finals at the European Grand in Umag, Croatia.

Shkolna was runner-up at the first European Grand Prix in Great Britain and last month’s Veronica’s Cup in Slovenia.

“It was important to take gold this time as it adds a bit more confidence to me shooting finals,” she said. “Also to establish myself on the continental level events. This season, I’m focused more on European tournaments, where I can try more alternate shooting and work on many things.”

It’s all working towards the European Games later this month in Poland and the Hyundai World Archery Championships in Berlin, explained Shkolna.

(Krakow will be the second edition of the multisport European Games to include compound as well as recurve competitions.)

Given the tricky conditions in Umag, where gusts posed as much of a challenge as matchplay opponents, Shkolna’s confident finish in the arena – a 145-141 win over Italy’s Andrea Moccia in the compound women’s final – is a good sign for the upcoming majors.

“It was windy, and it was a tricky wind that kept changing. I just tried to make my shots as strong and steady as possible to not let the bow swing, and take careful choices where and how much to aim off,” said Mariya.

“The last seasons were stable for me but I reached some plateau. Now I try to bring it up by changing my game at some perspectives.” 

Elia Canales five-set win over Spanish teammate Leyre Fernandez in the recurve women’s final required a comeback from 4-2 down.

The diminutive 21-year-old, who’s repeatedly shown flashes of ruthless determination in the arena, dropped a 29-point fourth set to level the match before doing just enough with her last arrow, delivering the nine required to shut Fernandez out.

It’s the second career podium for Canales at a world-ranking-level event or above – and the second win. (Her first was in Antalya in 2021.)

Talking of Antalya, Türkiye’s trip from its own gusty training facility there to the equally challenging Umag proved lucrative. Olympic Champion Mete Gazoz was the best recurve man on the field from qualifying to a 6-2 final win over France’s Thomas Chirault, while Batuhan Akcaoglu’s experience gave him the faster start, and a one-point-better finish, over the compound men’s reigning World Archery Champion Nico Wiener.

Spain and Türkiye picked up critical world ranking points in the team events, the former winning the women’s competition, the latter the men’s.

There’s another European event taking place in the coming week, this time for youth archers in the Swiss city of Sion. But Umag winner Shkolna’s scheduled to be there, too – on the coaching, rather than shooting, line.

“I’m still very tired after the competition but this week I change the activity and it will give me time to recover,” said Mariya. “The game is the same but the bow is in the hand of another archer. I always try to share as much as I can and think how I would react in some situations and, of course, give the support which I know as an athlete they might need.”

Another new perspective for Shkolna? It looks like they’re paying off.

Winners: Umag 2023