Lopez starts title defence with Pan Am Games record in Santiago

Lopez and Usquiano seeded top in the two-archer team event.

World number one Marcus D’Almeida (689) and reigning Pan Am Games Champion Alejandra Valencia (674) topped the morning’s recurve qualifying session before Kris Schaff (715) and Sara Lopez (710) shot new event records to take compound poles on the first day of competition in Santiago de Chile.

Lopez, Colombia’s eight-time Hyundai Archery World Cup Champion, won the inaugural compound women’s title at the Pan Am Games in Lima four years ago.

“I’m very happy. There were several arrows that I know were mistakes, it could have been at least three points higher and I know they were stupid mistakes that I made due to the cold,” she said. Temperatures reached around 10-11 degrees Celsius on the field this afternoon. Lopez hails from more tropical climes.

“I don’t feel my arms, I don’t feel my fingers. It’s like your rhythm stops. But the truth is, the score is very good. I shot 710s all season which is incredible, to close like this is a huge gift.”

Lopez and teammate Alejandra Usquiano (third individual qualifier with 701) seeded top in the two-athlete compound team competition introduced at this edition of the multisport event. They beat El Salvador to advance to a final that will take place on Saturday.

Defending compound men’s champion Roberto Hernandez seeded fourth with 705, 10 points behind Schaff, with Jagdeep Singh (709) and Luccas Abreu (705) in between.

These are the first Pan Am Games to award 10 total medals in the archery competitions – five for recurves and five for compounds.

Two-time and reigning recurve women’s Pan Am Games Champion Valencia is already enjoying one of the best seasons of her career, having finished runner-up at both the Hyundai World Archery Championships and the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in 2023.

She battled hard with world number two Casey Kaufhold for the top spot in qualifying.

Valencia trailed the US archer by four at 36 arrows but a steady second half, in chilly conditions, saw the Mexican 29-year-old chip into the deficit and eventually finish tied with Kaufhold on 674 points by the end of the round.

They both shot 34 10s but Valencia had more Xs – 16 to 14 – and collected pole.

“In the second half I focused more on doing things right not so much on mistakes,” she said. The total was one off Valencia’s own Games record of 675. “It worked and I just kept thinking like that.”

Kaufhold praised Valencia’s composure at the end of the round.

“There were some nerves there towards the last ends,” she said. “I’m happy with how I did. Three Xs, so close, and we both shot great. It was a good day.”

The USA was probably the biggest winner during the competition on Wednesday.

As well as Kaufhold’s tight second seed and Schaff’s record-setting round, the US went unbeaten in the team matchplay that followed the two qualifying sessions, making all four finals in Santiago.

The compound pairs will face Colombia (women) and El Salvador (men) while both the recurve men’s and women’s teams – in the usual three-archer format – will face Mexico in the gold medal matches on Saturday morning.

While Kaufhold’s recurve women enter as defending champions (to face Valencia’s formidable Mexican top seeds) the recurve men have the opportunity to claim a first title in the category since 2011. The USA won every recurve men’s team Pan Am Games title from 1979 until then, nine in a row, but finished second and third at the last two editions.

The Pan Am Games in Guadalajara 12 years ago were incidentally also the last time a recurve man from the USA took an individual title.

Brady Ellison was in his early 20s then, in the peak of his breakout years, much like Brazilian superstar Marcus D’Almeida is now. Ellison trailed D’Almeida by four over today’s 72-arrow 70-metre round, 685 to 689, despite leading by four at the half.

“I usually start a bit lower and for me that’s normal,” said Marcus matter-of-factly afterwards. “Brady went a little down and I went a little up.”

Competition continues at the Pan Am Games with mixed team eliminations on Thursday.

Top seeds: 2023 Pan Am Games

Team finals: 2023 Pan Am Games

  • Recurve men team: USA (1) v Mexico (3)
  • Recurve women team: Mexico (1) v USA (2)
  • Compound men pairs: USA (1) v El Salvador (3)
  • Compound women pairs: Colombia (1) v USA (2)