Passion and pride the key for Colombia’s compound queens
It has never been all about medals for Colombia, but a hat-trick of gold medals two years ago in Yankton was the stuff of dreams.
Sandwiched in between long-time heavyweights of the archery world in Korea (first) and the USA (third), Colombia sat second in the medal table at the 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships thanks to a stunning showing from its compound team, led by the indomitable Sara Lopez.
Those results saw the nation more than double its total number of accrued medals at the championships – as Colombia put an archer on top of the individual podium for the first time.
Lopez claimed the compound women’s world crown, beating India’s Jyothi Surekha Vennam in the final and, finally, adding the pinnacle title to her (at the time) five Hyundai Archery World Cup trophies.
A decade on from Colombia’s first world title – the compound women’s team event in Belek in 2013 – the gold rush in Yankton represented something far bigger for the nation, the results indicative of a sport going from strength to strength…
…and a nation that belongs among the world’s best.
“We truly do this with a lot of passion and love,” said Lopez. “We are not motivated by money or medals, or even fame.”
"We are motivated by listening to the national anthem and seeing the flag.”
Since joining the national team in 2013, Lopez has heard that hymn five times, with the team in 2013 and 2017, and in all three events last time in Yankton.
"We are also very united among all of us, we are a big family and we love and respect each other which is something I feel distinguishes us from other teams,” she continued.
“The main advantage of Colombia is that there are many good archers in a lot of different cities throughout the country, so that makes it so that we have a good number of archers.”
While the country may now boast a pool of archers from which to pull its squad, the decade of success has been defined by two compound constants – Lopez and teammate Alejandra Usquiano.
The pair are synonymous with Colombian archery, with their experience almost unrivalled on the international scene, something key to aiding the oft-rotating third member, whomever that may be, slot in with ease.
“The way we try to approach it is that, as both Alejandra and I have a decade of experience in the sport,” said Lopez.
“The knowledge we have built transfers to the new person because it’s always girls that are newer to the sport so we always try to be teachers but also as an example.”
At each event, the squad performed.
“It’s not so that they see us as an unattainable goal but as people who have gone through these experiences before and so we try to pass on this knowledge,” said Lopez.
“In every championship we have been in, it has always been with a different teammate and so we are always trying to teach not as bosses or leaders, but rather teammates.”
Completing the triumvirate for the 2023 Hyundai World Archery Championships in Berlin is 19-year-old Juliana Gallego.
The teenager is less than a year into her senior international career but is already highly regarded.
“I want to do the best that I can,” said Gallego. “It has always been a dream of mine to do this ever since I started, and it’s always been a dream to share the field with Sara as a teammate.”
Hailing from the same region of the country as Lopez, the coffee-growing state of Risaralda, Gallego has already appeared with the Colombian team at two stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in 2023, as well as the Pan American Championships at the end of 2022.
"As a junior, I only competed once internationally [in Poland] and I can only say that there is no comparison, this is double the emotions,” she said.
"Archery in Colombia is growing exponentially, and this is more noticeable when you see those with more experience helping out the newer archers.”
"We have a lot of love and passion for this which is contagious among the newer generations, and we build a lot of discipline.”
Early signs of the new line-up’s potential have been encouraging, with two second-place finishes at the two stages of the 2023 Hyundai Archery World Cup at which they competed – in Shanghai and Medellin.
Lopez insists the pressure is off, following the sweeping success in Yankton, but the team arrives in Berlin with plenty of confidence to add another medal to their country’s collection.
“I always sought the individual gold medal for a long time and now I have it,” reflected Lopez. “The championships are completed from my to-do list, because I have already achieved my personal goals.”
“I have always been more about checking off items from a list of goals and when one comes true, it comes off the list and I look onwards to a new dream.”
After a decade of results, the Colombian superstar’s approach is more egalitarian.
“This year we have a new team member, Juliana, and thus far we have only won silver together but never gold with her,” said Sara. “So we feel like this would be a good opportunity to seek the gold medal.”
A new team dream?